When a child gets cancer, a family's life can be turned upside down.
Sickness and pain arrive, along with a confusing world of medicines and treatments. A dark cloud of uncertainty often descends.
Against this backdrop, the Keaton Raphael Memorial quietly reaches out, providing support and resources to help pediatric cancer patients and their families get through such difficult times.
"It's that backbone support you just really need," said Regina Williams, whose 4-year-old son Elijah Brown was diagnosed in May with stage 4 neuroblastoma, a cancer of the nervous system. "They make everything easier."
As Williams spoke, Elijah, barely bigger than his pillow, lay next to her in a hospital bed at the UC Davis Medical Center on Stockton Boulevard. It was Dec. 6.
The child had gone through surgery and months of chemotherapy treatments over the summer and fall. After a November trip to Walt Disney World through the Make-A-Wish Foundation, he wound up back in the hospital with two viruses and a bacterial infection.
Williams, 25, gave up her job as a caregiver when Elijah first became sick.
During his frequent hospitalizations, she rarely leaves his side and sleeps in the same bed with him at night, often with his father, Eldred Brown, in a pullout chair-bed nearby.
Elijah has suffered during his illness, yet rarely cries or complains.
"Even after chemotherapy, he goes home and goes outside and plays. He doesn't let it stop him," Williams said.
The Keaton Raphael Memorial was created in 1998 by Roseville residents Robyn and Kyle Raphael, whose son Keaton had neuroblastoma and died that year. This year, the charity served 110 Northern California children and families, with $63,575 in financial assistance provided. It raised $899,774 for cancer research, making the memorial the largest single supporter for pediatric cancer research at the UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center, said Teresa Hofhenke, interim executive director.
Through the memorial, Williams said, her family received tickets to a Kings game and the circus, a cash grant of $500, and guidance on resources, as well as a hope chest with a personalized "snuggle" blanket for Elijah, educational materials, and books and toys for Elijah and his three siblings. Her son loved the blanket, she said.
"He's really big on blankets," she said. "They're his protecting shield."
Because the need for the hope chests and snuggle blankets far outpaces the memorial's resources, Hofhenke is asking Book of Dreams readers to support the purchase of materials, including fabric for the snuggle blankets, for 140 more patients in 2013.
NEEDED: Fabric for materials to make snuggle blankets.