Matthews – Mint Hill Weekly
Matthews moms to help fight childhood cancer through 28-mile hike
MATTHEWS – Amy McKelvey and Kim Frizzell live in the same neighborhood, Providence Hills, but never met until both endured a mother’s worst nightmare – watching their child struggle and lose their life to cancer.
“It’s a club you never want to belong to, but to have someone who really truly knows, it’s a kindred friendship,” McKelvey said.
Frizzell’s daughter, Kalen, was diagnosed with osteosarcoma in 2004. The treatments caused Kalen to develop chemically-induced Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML). That’s the same type of naturally-occurring cancer McKelvey’s daughter, Emily Rose, was diagnosed with in 2008.
Kalen died in 2008 at 14 years old, just months before then-17-year-old Emily was diagnosed with AML. Emily died just five months after her July 2008 diagnosis.
Both women turned their grief into compassion, paying it forward to other children with cancer by participating in CureSearch’s Ultimate Hike fundraiser.
CureSearch is a nonprofit that funds childhood cancer research and clinical trials, while also providing resources and education for the families of children diagnosed with cancer. Brecka Putnam, events manager at CureSearch, said the organization’s biggest program, Acceleration Initiative, “addresses the most challenging barriers in the pediatric oncology research field … so breakthroughs in treatment and cures can be funded.”
The Ultimate Hike is a national fund- raising arm of CureSearch, in which participants can engage in one of four group hikes at four different locations across the U.S., or create their own physically-enduring challenge to raise money for childhood cancer.
Putnam said Ultimate Hike has raised more than $2.9 million since its inception, and the organization hopes to raise $3 million by hike weekend.
McKelvey and Frizzell will participate in the annual 28.3-mile traditional hike at Foothill Trails in the Sumter National Forest in South Carolina on May 16, a Saturday. This is McKelvey’s fourth time and Frizzell’s second time on the trail.
McKelvey said she was surprised at how little funding was invested in childhood cancer research in comparison to breast cancer and other adult cancers. She also said it’s inaccurate to classify AML as “rare.”
“I know a dozen cases personally and to have two in the same neighborhood…” she said.
Frizzell said childhood cancer treatment follows the same protocol as treatment for adults.
“Adult survival is higher with these treatments than children’s survival rates, because they are still developing and their bodies are different,” she said. “When Kalen passed away at Duke (University Hospital), all three children who were receiving the same treatment there died that year. No one survived.”
McKelvey said Emily received a perfect match for a bone marrow transplant, which was successful, but died because of liver damage from the chemotherapy.
Both feel compelled to fight for a cure for childhood cancer, in hopes that the next child will have a better chance at survival.
McKelvey has trained for the hike since January, and she’s also recruited nine team members and aspires to raise $22,500. She has participated in group training hikes facilitated by Ultimate Hike, as well as hiked at Crowders Mountain with her team members.
Frizzell is currently recruiting team members, but has no qualms about doing it alone. She’s already raised $1,000 and trains by walking around her neighborhood to build stamina.
Both women agree the hike gives them a chance to grieve and heal. Frizzell said she looks forward to this year’s hike, because it comes less than a week before the seventh anniversary of her daughter’s death.
“You start to dread that anniversary date. The hike is a positive way to keep my mind busy and align my sorrows with a purpose,” she said.
McKelvey echoed Frizzell’s sentiments.
“I hiked a lot by myself last year, spent a lot of time reflecting on what (Emily) had been through,” she said. “28.3 miles is a long time, but if you think about all that she went through, she never gave up. Her attitude, she kept fighting and was always concerned about others over herself. She was a good girl … we were extremely close. Anything I can do to share her story and help others enduring childhood cancer.”
Putnam said it “means the world” to have people like McKelvey and Frizell participate in the Ultimate Hike.
“They’ve made sure that their daughters’ legacies are filled with hope for all those facing children’s cancer,” she said. “Their presence on the trail makes a huge difference for the other hikers as well – when they are thinking about giving up, all they have to do is think about the journey people like Amy and Kim have been through. In comparison, suddenly 28.3 miles does not seem so hard.”
• McKelvey has raised more than $50,000 for CureSearch through the Ultimate Hike and CureSearch Walk and $5,000 for this year’s race thus far. Visit http://www.ultimatehike.org, click “Find a Hike” and search for Amy McKelvey on the donation page for more information.
• Frizzell has raised more than $5,000 for CureSearch through the Ultimate Hike. She’s also raised money for CureSearch and to support local families fighting childhood cancer through Kalen’s Sweet Miracles, a nonprofit in her daughter’s name. Learn more about Frizzell’s journey and how to support her efforts at http://www.ultimatehike.org/fh15/kimfrizzell.