A reason to rejoice amid cancer

The Celebrate Me Foundation helps children affected by illness have a special day

By Marissa Harshman, Columbian health reporter

Published:

 

Emily Donaldson knows what’s like to be a child whose birthday was overlooked.

If you go

What: Celebrate Me Foundation’s first dinner and auction fundraiser, “An Evening to Celebrate.”

When: 6 to 8 p.m. Oct. 9.

Where: Battle Ground Community Center, 912 E. Main St., Battle Ground.

Cost: $20 per person or $35 per couple. To buy tickets, mail payment to 2210 W. Main St. Suite 107, Battle Ground, Wash., 98604.

Contact:http://www.celebratemefoundation.org.

When she was a tween, her grandmother was diagnosed with cancer. Donaldson’s mother spent long hours in the car and out of town caring for her grandmother. A few years later, her other grandmother was diagnosed with cancer.

Planning a child’s birthday party was the ball Donaldson’s mother dropped as she juggled responsibilities.

Karen Mallory knows what’s like to have children lose their sense of normalcy.

Four and a half years ago, Karen’s husband was diagnosed with prostate cancer. Six months later, Mallory was diagnosed with lobular breast cancer. Her children were 9 and 10 years old at the time and witnessing both parents experience chemotherapy, radiation and surgeries.

Now the Battle Ground women are using their experiences with cancer — Donaldson was also diagnosed with skin cancer in 2006 — to help other families struggling with disease.

After months of planning, the duo launched the Celebrate Me Foundation in January. The website (http://www.celebratemefoundation.org) went live in June. And in August, the organization began accepting applications for services.

The crux of the foundation is simple: provide children who are experiencing cancer with a birthday party, a break from cancer diagnoses and treatments.

The organization will throw special parties for children up to age 18 who are cancer patients or who have an immediate family member (parent or sibling) facing cancer.

“We want each child to feel they’re important, valued and worthy to be celebrated,” Donaldson said.

Each child will receive a party at a location of their choice, whether a park or a kid-friendly venue, a birthday cake, goodie bags for their guests, and a scrapbook full of photos by a professional photographer.

Numerous local businesses have already partnered with the organization to provide in-kind services. The rest of the costs are covered by donations and fundraisers.

Beginning in December, Celebrate Me will also offer family fun nights on the first Sunday of even-numbered months. The goal is to connect families in the community who are dealing with cancer in a fun atmosphere. In addition, the group will offer prayer support for those who want it.

The launch of the Celebrate Me Foundation is the culmination of much prayer and soul searching for Donaldson.

After her melanoma diagnosis and the surgery that followed, Donaldson took a break from her work in children’s ministry. She took time to evaluate what was important in life and realized her passion for helping the community.

She enlisted Mallory, and together the pair dreamed up Celebrate Me with the hope that children in the community won’t feel forgotten or overlooked as their worlds revolve around cancer.

“We just want day where they’re separated and it’s about them,” Mallory said. “If it’s just something else lost in that year, it’s just another loss.”

Marissa Harshman: http://twitter.com/col_health; http://facebook.com/reporterharshman; marissa.harshman@columbian.com; 360-735-4546.