In preparation for the Thanksgiving Ball Gala, at The Grove in Cedar Grove, the ambassadors met there a few weeks beforehand for the "Ambassador Orientation." They spent the evening filling out questionnaires, chatting, bonding, eating pizza, and touring the beautiful facility. Many parents of the younger ambassadors also joined the orientation.
An important part of the evening is always the medal ceremony. Each ambassador is awarded a special medal for his/her service to The Valerie Fund to be worn the night of the Gala. The ambassadors also have their picture taken to be featured in the Gala's program along with their handwritten excerpts.
Our blog series continues with personal stories from this year's Thanksgiving Ball Gala ambassadors.
Natasha, age 7
Natasha was diagnosed at age six with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL). She is expected to be in treatment for two years. Natasha enjoys reading and meeting other people, and making new friends through her visits at The Valerie Fund. She said that The Valerie Fund staff, "puts a big smile on the kids' faces."
Ivan, age 13
Ivan was diagnosed with T-cell Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (T-ALL) at age 12. Ivan has been in treatment for the last year and is expected to undergo treatment for three years in total. Ivan keeps busy with his favorite hobbies of playing video games, cards and playing chess with his brother.
Ivan said, "[The Valerie Fund] helps many families in need who have a child going through tough times. This organization has helped my family by providing us with transportation, food and bill payments. If we can get your help, it will mean a lot to The Valerie Fund."
Joanna, age 19
Joanna was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma at age 18. She underwent treatment for six months and is now attending Rutgers University studying International Business. Joanna is, "loving every minute" of college and said The Valerie Fund helped her by awarding her a scholarship.
Joanna said, "One of my favorite memories with The Valerie Fund was the day I got the chance to ring the bell in The Valerie Fund Center. I was surrounded by the entire staff I now consider family. We were celebrating the end of my treatment." She continued, "Without The Valerie Fund, my time in the hospital would have been much darker. The Valerie Fund kept me smiling and hopeful throughout the entirety of my treatment."
Antwann, age 6
Diagnosed at birth with Sickle Beta Thalassemia, Antwann's treatment will be lifelong. In between his monthly visits to The Valerie Fund Center, Antwann enjoys painting, coloring and playing at the park. His mom said, "The Valerie Fund offers a great environment while my son is receiving treatment. Antwann loves role playing with the doll the child life specialist brings. He finds a great deal of comfort in talking to the doll and "taking blood" from it."
Camila, age 6
Camila was diagnosed with Ependymoma of the brain, a brain tumor, when she was 17-months-old. The duration of her treatment is not known. When Camila is not at The Valerie Fund Center, she loves to dance, sing, play with Play-Doh and make slime. At her summer camp, Camila loved swimming in the pool, eating bagels and playing with other kids.
Camila's family said, "Cancer is a disease that no children should have to go through. The Valerie Fund has helped us emotionally, financially, showing a lot of love that that we are not alone in this. 'God bless.' "