“Who are you walking for this year?” It’s a question you’ll hear asked frequently as we countdown to the 7th annual Cincinnati Walks for Kids on Saturday, Oct. 20 at Coney Island.
As the walk coordinator, I get to hear firsthand many inspiring stories from Cincinnati Children’s patients and families. Whether they are walking to celebrate or honor a loved one, or simply to give back, it’s moving to see how the care the medical center has provided unites them in spirit on this one spectacular, fun-filled day.
Meet three families who are participating in the Walk this year.
Just 24 hours after Avery Mathews was born, she was transported by ambulance to Cincinnati Children’s for expert care at the Heart Institute.
Avery was admitted to the Cardiac Intensive Care Unit where she spent the first 10 days of her life after doctors discovered one of her heart valves was completely closed. Something needed to be done quickly to save her life.
“We didn’t know before she was born that anything was wrong,” says Avery’s father, Ron. “We didn’t have a chance to do any research on cardiologists. We were lucky that Cincinnati Children’s turned out to be the best place for her.”
The Mathews family is celebrating the life-saving care their daughter received by participating in the walk.
“It’s a way for us to give back to the hospital because of the good experience we’ve had,” says Avery’s mom, Amity. “We want to support what they do. The walk is a chance for our family to enjoy time together and to meet other families who may be on a similar journey.”
Losing a child is the hardest thing anyone can go through. But one Colerain Township family is taking their pain and turning it into hope for others.
The Merk Family will be walking to honor the memory of their son, Tony, who was 6 years old when he passed away from cancer.
Tony was a sweet, strong-willed boy who enjoyed playing sports and spending time with his three older brothers. He was diagnosed with a brain tumor in 2008 and received care at Cincinnati Children’s.
“He had a very aggressive cancer – medulloblastoma, classified as stage four,” says his mother, Lynne. “It was bad. He had to undergo six weeks of radiation and intensive chemotherapy at just 4 years old.”
Doctors at Cincinnati Children’s were able to treat his cancer, but it came back in 2011.
“There are no known treatments for relapsed medulloblastoma,” says Rick, Tony’s dad. “The doctors at Cincinnati Children’s didn’t give up. They tried everything they could to help him. We consulted with other hospitals, and we knew we were in the right place.”
In memory of Tony, who passed away last July, the family will raise money for the Cancer and Blood Diseases Institute (CBDI) at Cincinnati Children’s through the walk.
Donations made to the family and their walk team members will be used to support the collaboration of the CBDI with the Division of Behavioral Medicine and Clinical Psychology in providing psychosocial treatment for the patients and families affected by pediatric cancer and blood disorders.
“We want to honor Tony,” Rick says. “This is what he would want us to do. If we can help just one other family, then everything we have done in his memory has been worth it.”
Annie walks to pay it forward
When Annie (Barkley) Horn was 13, her father unexpectedly passed away. Soon after, she fell into a deep depression. Cincinnati Children’s was there to help Annie get the care she needed.
“I’m forever grateful that Cincinnati Children’s worked with me and is working to de-stigmatize mental illness,” Horn says. “I feel like I need to do what I can to pay it forward.”
“Today, I use exercise as a release” Horn says. “I would not be where I am today without the care Cincinnati Children’s gave me.”
Horn will be joined by her family at this year’s walk, along with her co-workers at Messer Construction. For several years, Messer has sponsored the event, and Horn walks on the company’s team.
“We have a lot of walkers, and we each have a goal to raise at least $30,” Horn says. “And Messer will match that up to $15.”
Tell us why you walk
Comment below or go to our website and tell us why you’re participating in Cincinnati Walks for Kids. We’d like to share your story with our community.
There’s still time to sign-up
As a nonprofit hospital and research center, Cincinnati Children’s relies on events like Cincinnati Walks for Kids to help fund life-saving research, patient care and education. Since the walk’s inception, nearly $4 million has been raised for the hospital.
It’s not too late to sign-up for Cincinnati Walks for Kids. Register here or call 513-636-2941 for more information.