Mattie Miracle 8th Annual Walk & Family Festival was an $88,000 Success!!!

Mattie Miracle Cancer Foundation Promotional Video

Thank you for keeping Mattie's memory alive!

Dear Mattie Blog Readers,

It means a great deal to us that you take the time to write to us and to share your thoughts, feelings, and reflections on Mattie's battle and death. Your messages are very meaningful to us and help support us through very challenging times. To you we are forever grateful. As my readers know, I promised to write the blog for a year after Mattie's death, which would mean that I could technically stop writing on September 9, 2010. However, at the moment, I feel like our journey with grief still needs to be processed and fortunately I have a willing support network still committed to reading. Therefore, the blog continues on. If I should find the need to stop writing, I assure you I will give you advanced notice. In the mean time, thank you for reading, thank you for having the courage to share this journey with us, and most importantly thank you for keeping Mattie's memory alive.


As Mattie would say, Ooga Booga (meaning, I LOVE YOU)! Vicki and Peter



The Mattie Miracle Cancer Foundation celebrates its 7th anniversary!

The Mattie Miracle Cancer Foundation was created in the honor of Mattie.

We are a 501(c)(3) Public Charity. We are dedicated to increasing childhood cancer awareness, education, advocacy, research and psychosocial support services to children, their families and medical personnel. Children and their families will be supported throughout the cancer treatment journey, to ensure access to quality psychosocial and mental health care, and to enable children to cope with cancer so they can lead happy and productive lives. Please visit the website at: www.mattiemiracle.com and take some time to explore the site.

We have only gotten this far because of people like yourself, who have supported us through thick and thin. So thank you for your continued support and caring, and remember:

.... Let's Make the Miracle Happen and Stomp Out Childhood Cancer!

A Remembrance Video of Mattie

Random Shots of Mattie, Family and Friends

May 30, 2015

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Tonight's picture was taken in September of 2002. Mattie was five months old and just introduced to "tot wheels" or his walker. Mattie loved it because it gave him freedom and mobility! Things he craved and needed right from the beginning. I remember Mattie following me all over our home in tot wheels and he did not move slowly in it either. He would zoom around in it, and would even turn corners in it like a race car driver. I have scratches on our furniture and the floors as evidence!


Quote of the day: We must not wish for the disappearance of our troubles but for the grace to transform them. ~ Simone Weil


Tonight's Foundation Walk photos feature the wonderful food at our event. Since 2011, Becca Fischer, the Executive Chef at Clyde's at Tyson's Corner has been donating the food, cooking at our event, and freely giving of her time to the Foundation. This is her fifth year with us and she now brings her family as well as her sous chef from Clyde's to assist her. Pictured here from left to right are Greg (Becca's husband), Heather (a sous chef at Clyde's), and Becca. Who isn't pictured is Rachel (Becca and Greg's daughter). But Rachel was also on site helping at the event!

The food area is always a popular site at the Walk! What you aren't seeing however is set up! In order to have food at the Walk, we have to fill out an extensive health permit application with the City of Alexandria a month before the Walk. I complete this process and hand walk the application to the Health Department myself! This is my biggest joke with Becca, because I tell her it is the one day of the year in which I manage an executive chef!

Then on the day of the Walk, an hour before the event opens, an inspector from the City comes to inspect the site. The inspector checks EVERYTHING from where the food comes from, how it has been stored, how it is cooked, how it will be served, who is cooking it, how utensils are cleaned, how hands are cleaned and the list goes on! Behind this food area in the photo are two cleaning stations, one for hands and the other for utensils! It is thanks to Becca that we are able to manage this on-site inspection with ease because if we do not pass inspection, the EVENT IS SHUT down to the public! This is one of three inspections we undergo the morning of the Walk, the other two are for fire safety and building safety (because we offer "carnival type rides").

Next to where Becca cooks and serves the food is this food truck. Within this food truck, are our two dedicated volunteers, Patricia and Bernie. They have been in charge of the food area for seven years! They started before we had a Foundation! In fact, they served pizza in 2009, during the Mattie March, which was the Walk our care community hosted in honor of Mattie to show their support and love for him. Over time, this food area has evolved! So Patricia and Bernie no longer serve pizza, but oversee drinks, chips, and candy! Of course they also manage all the money in the food area. They are an incredible duo who also brings their children to the event, and all three children (Zachary, Maddy, and Tyson) work very hard each year at the event. Not only did Zachary, Maddy, and Tyson work at the Walk this year, but they also raised funds for their Walk teams! It doesn't get better than that.... they are the model volunteer. 

The Food Area! What you may or may not notice while at our event or in the photos are two things. We cover all our tables! Color is important to me. We put table cloths on all the tables. The table cloths are either orange, yellow, or red. These are the three Foundation colors, and colors that Mattie loved! In addition, on top of the picnic tables are always placed flowers. This is not in memory of Mattie, but in memory of my friend, Margaret. Margaret used to bring flowers to our Walk every year and decorate our tables. Like me, Margaret loved flowers. Each year I am on overload with managing the operations of Walk and usually can't get to setting up flowers, but my friend Ann knows about this tradition, and helps to keep it alive. Which I am thankful for. So when I see flowers on the table.... I think of Margaret! 


Pictured here are Marisa and Colton! Marisa runs our bake sale at the Walk. Marisa has been doing this for six years now. Marisa got to know Mattie when she was in high school, and she would assist me when I was home from the hospital between treatments with trying to entertain Mattie and keeping his spirits up. Marisa is dedicated to helping the Foundation, and though she lives in Pennsylvania, raises funds for the bake sale, and runs it each year at the Walk. 

At one time our bake sale used to involve home made products, but thanks to the City of Alexandria and their regulations, home baked goods are NO LONGER allowed to be sold at a public event. Therefore we are only allowed to sell store bought items. I get the liability associated with this, and the safety concerns, but it does take away from the tastiness of buying something that came right out of someone's oven!

May 29, 2015

Friday, May 29, 2015

Friday, May 29, 2015

Tonight's picture was taken in September of 2002. Mattie was five months old and eating up a storm. He was getting the hang of the notion of using a spoon, but Mattie had a mind of his own. He did not like his high chair and preferred eating in his car seat. That car seat served many purposes! It wasn't only used in the car! Of course there came a point that Mattie no longer fit in the seat and therefore had to transition to a high chair. That too was an adjustment which took time and coaxing.... first sitting in the chair for short periods of time with toys, without being latched in or having the tray table in front of him, to eventually learning to get used to sitting with the table latched into the seat so he could eat. 


Quote of the day: Time decides who you meet in life, your heart decides who you want in your life, and your behavior decides who stays in your life. ~ Ziad Abdelnour


Tonight's Foundation Walk photos feature the Zumba session at the Walk. This is the fourth year we have had Zumba, and the session is conducted by Jenny Cavanaugh. Jenny is my zumba instructor and I met Jenny when Mattie was in kindergarten. Mattie and Jenny's daughter were in the same kindergarten classroom. However, it wasn't until years after Mattie died that I started to take zumba classes with Jenny. 

Jenny kindly offers her skills and talents for free at the Walk and gets many of us moving and jumping around. It turns out, I hear, that people in attendance like watching those of us who participate. There is something about zumba that provides community fun and spirit to the event! 


This year it was like exercising in a sauna. The humidity and the temperature on the AstroTurf were a killer. Yet you can see some of us bravely did it anyway! 








From left to right are Nicole (Tricia's daughter), Tricia (Mattie's favorite HEM/ONC nurse), Ilona (Co-Founder of the Chris Lantos Foundation), my mom, and Heidi (a Mattie Miracle Supporter).







The trio -- my mom, Ilona, and Heidi



















I do not know who this it, but I call him our "zumba fellow!" He was the brave guy who got out there and danced with us and did a great job!!! 
















I love this photo..... the smile and the happiness of moving to music! This is one of our volunteer's doing zumba! 


















May 28, 2015

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Tonight's picture was taken in August of 2002. Mattie was four months old and by this point fully engaged with eating more solid foods, like baby cereal. In fact, Mattie loved rice cereal and baby oatmeal. So much so that as Mattie got older, oatmeal became his food of choice to start his morning. Every morning, like clock work he had oatmeal. He loved it that much! 

Quote of the day: We are what we repeatedly do. Aristotle


Tonight's blog posting features some of the posters we had on display at the Walk. We had over 64 posters on site for people to view and read. Under our Registration tent we always feature a photo of Mattie. He is the reason why we created the Foundation and his memory is the driving force behind our psychosocial mission. As you can see, this little fellow seemed to like our posters and the hurdles they were positioned on. He fits right in. 

Also in the Registration Tent, was our Schedule of Events poster. 
Along the track, we place 51 posters. Twenty five of the posters were featured in this concentrated area. The posters had: 1) content on them about the Foundation, 2) they had childhood cancer facts, and 3) they also had photos of all the work we have accomplished to date addressing our core areas of Advocacy, Awareness, and Psychosocial Support. 


Here is a close up of some of these posters!












Throughout the event, our attendees wandered into this informational gallery to check out our posters. To me these posters are very important because they depict what we actual do, accomplish, and where our funds actually go!





As you can see the title of this poster was, "What does Mattie Miracle do?" We had many descriptive posters about Mattie Miracle on display, in addition to factual posters about childhood cancer and the psychosocial impact of the disease.





This was our creative poster to match teams to colored cups. Each team was assigned a color cup, and each team member earned a cup for each lap walked around the track. In essence the number of cups placed in our challenge wall helped us track the number of laps each team walked!



Our teams also brought their own posters! These were beauties! Team KW and Friends (which was comprised of members of the St. Stephen's and St. Agnes School community) and was captained by Debbie Keefe (Mattie Miracle's kid activity coordinator six years in a row!). These posters helped to pull Debbie's team together for a group photo, but they were also wonderful visuals for our banner photo.

Can you see Debbie's posters in the middle of this photo?!








Around the track we also had our 26 Faces of Hope posters! We created this project in 2012, and our participants find these posters very meaningful! On each poster is a photo and small description of a child or teen who is either in treatment or is a survivor. They are why we are walking and serve as reminders to those at the Walk that they are there to have fun, but their fun is for a purpose and good cause.... to raise money to help meet the psychosocial needs of children and teens, like the ones around the track. 









People really do look at the Faces of Hope posters and some even stop to take photos beside them. 












May 27, 2015

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Tonight's photo was taken in July of 2002. Mattie was three months old. I happen to love this photo because of Mattie's facial expression! It was almost as if he was saying...... "hum that's very interesting!" Mattie definitely looked more like Peter when he was a baby, yet as Mattie grew into his toddler years and beyond, there was no doubt who he looked like!


Quote of the day: Everyone sees what you appear to be, few experience what you really are.Niccolo Machiavelli




Tonight's pictures feature the LEGO activities that were present at our Walk on May 17th. We always have LEGOs at the Walk because Mattie was a huge LEGO fan. When he was battling cancer and was unable to walk and move around, LEGOs became our form of therapy. We did LEGOs in the hospital and at home, and literally in 2008 and 2009 we built every LEGO kit on the market. We want to thank the WAMALUG and WamaLTC groups who come to our Walk every year and set up this wonderfully elaborate city scape and train display. It is a labor of love and the beauty of this is the trains are operational and run around the track. In fact, many of the LEGO structures you see here are models of actual historic buildings in Alexandria, VA where the Walk was held. Very clever! 


The other LEGO group that joins us is Play-Well TEKnologies. This is the second year Play-Well has been at our Walk. Play-Well sends two educators to our event and does very hands on activities with kids of all ages. But the activities are very directed to engage the engineering mind of a child. 















At the Play-Well tent this year, one of the structures they built were towers! As you can see one of the towers was quite high.



















The kids get very engaged in building, so much so that the LEGO bricks come off the tables and onto the ground!










Marta, was one of the Play-Well educators who joined us this year. How do you like that suspension bridge?









Ian, the fellow with the plaid shirt, is the Virginia Area Manager of Play-Well and helped me coordinate this year's tent at our Walk. He brought many wonderful new ideas to our Walk and we were thrilled to have his participation. 

May 26, 2015

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Tuesday, May 26, 2015 -- Mattie died 298 weeks ago today.

Tonight's picture was taken in June of 2002. Mattie was two months old and as you can see here... he was born with a a sense of humor. Of course if you asked Mattie's pediatrician, she would have told us that Mattie's smile was simply him passing a gas bubble and that this was not a true smile and expression of happiness. However, from my perspective Mattie was quite engaged with me that day as I was trying to snap a photo of him and I really think he found my antics with the camera down right funny. 



Quote of the day: The tragedy of life is what dies inside a man while he lives. ~ Albert Einstein



As promised, this week I will be highlighting more photos from the Foundation's Walk on May 17th! This year Mattie Miracle had a record number of Corporate Sponsorships at our Walk! We are thankful to the following 7 companies who stand behind our psychosocial mission and together contributed $16,000 to help children with cancer:

1) IBC
2) ECS
3) Inovalon
4) MedStar Georgetown University Hospital
5) Voxiva
6) Kearney & Company
7) Ostendio


Our "Mattie Miracle" Level sponsor, IBC, had a table at the walk. Tim Spadafore (Chief Operating Officer), Matt Friedman (Manager), and Todd Schuerhoff (Managing Principal) were in attendance and greeted Walk participants. IBC gave out snap bands and mugs as well! IBC was well represented at the Walk, as many of their team members came throughout the day. IBC has been a proud sponsor of the Walk since 2011, for which Mattie Miracle is deeply grateful. 











As our "Mattie Miracle" Level Sponsor, we asked Todd, from IBC, to officially started our Walk by sounding a horn! This was a first for us, but a wonderful tradition we hope to continue. 
















Each year we also invite the Child Life Staff from Georgetown University Hospital to set up a table at the Walk. This year, the entire Child Life Staff at the Hospital was in attendance. From left to right: Katie, Jess, Jessica, Nancy (an artist with the Studio G program at the Hospital), and Lerin. 

Lerin is the newest member of the Child Life staff at the Hospital. Mattie Miracle pays Lerin's full salary. Lerin works on the Weekends at the Hospital, which have historically been times in which children did not have access to a child life specialist or to social activities. Lerin's position will be changing all of that! 


This poster highlighted our individual supporters who contributed $500 and higher as well as members within the community who support the Walk and raffle. 
















These wonderful girls are Franky, Ellie, and Katie! Ellie (the girl in orange) went to preschool with Mattie and each year Ellie comes to the Walk and highlights one of her beautiful creations. Ellie came up with this flower pot theme herself, painted the pots, and even hand painted the Foundation's logo on the pots. Each flower pot comes with its own packet of Forget me Not seeds and on the packet it reads: "Those we love don't go away, they walk beside us every day, unseen unheard, but always near, still loved, still missed and very dear." 

Ellie's enthusiasm is contagious and she has recruited her friends Franky and Katie to assist her! Franky has attended our Walk for the past three years and we look forward to having their participation for many more years to come. 


You should note that Ellie donates 100% of her proceeds to Mattie Miracle and has been doing so for the past five years. Each year Ellie designs something different. She is our Foundation's Top Kid Vendor and we are proud of her. Ellie's "Seeds for Hope" table was very successful as she sold $260 worth of flower pots at the Walk!

May 25, 2015

Monday, May 25, 2015

Monday, May 25, 2015

Tonight's picture was taken in September of 2006. We took Mattie to Scott's Run in McLean, VA. Which is another one of the the Nature Preserves on the list that Mattie liked to visit. Mattie particularly liked this stream area and crossing over it. Typically he was crossing it himself, and hopping from one stone to the next, but that day he was tired and decided it was better to have Peter do the work. Peter was quite used to this on our walks, since Mattie practically grew up attached to Peter's back! As a baby, Mattie strongly disliked his car seat and forget about a stroller. Mattie really did not like anything that confined his movement in any way. But hanging from Peter's back gave him a bird's eye view that he always enjoyed, and right from day one Mattie preferred being outdoors and in wide open spaces! 


Quote of the day: One of the best feelings in the world is knowing your presence and absence both mean something to someone. ~ Unknown


Tomorrow I will resume with highlighting the Foundation Walk and displaying photos from the event. However, I did the grand total count and can happily report that we had 408 attendees this year at the Walk & Family Festival!

Peter and I visited Huntley Meadows Park today. This is a Park we used to take Mattie to quite often. Though it isn't around the corner from us, it is a very tranquil and beautiful Park, and one in which you are always guaranteed to see amazing wildlife. As always today did not disappoint. 


Huntley Meadows Park is a rich, natural and historical island of over 1,500 acres in Northern Virginia. It harbors a nationally significant historic house, majestic forests, wildflower-speckled meadows and vast wetlands bursting with life.


Some of the best wildlife watching in the Washington metropolitan area is enjoyed here. From the ½ mile wetland boardwalk trail and observation tower, where you can view beavers, frogs, dragonflies and herons. Huntley Meadows is well known as a prime birding spot, with over 200 species identified in the park.


Our first sighting along our journey was this toad! I did not see him at all, but he was literally hopping right in front of Peter. Peter stopped me to look at this tiny thing. The toad was VERY small, maybe the size of a golf ball at best and he blended in beautifully with his surroundings. 





The next sighting was a deer. The deer was off in the woods, so this was as close up as we could snap a photo without disturbing the process and getting off the trail. 









However, one of my favorite parts of the Park is the 1/2 mile boardwalk. It is on this boardwalk that you can see practically a whole ecosystem! 











Turtles were everywhere..... some were basking in the sunshine..................
and some were swimming about in the water!












We also saw the acrobats of the bird world! I call them that because they literally dive bomb into the water to catch fish with great precision! Osprey, are sometimes called the fish eaglesea hawkriver hawk, or fish hawk. They are fish-eating bird of prey. They are a large raptor, reaching more than two feet in length and 6 feet across the wings. They are brown on the upperparts and predominantly greyish on the head and underparts. The osprey tolerates a wide variety of habitats, nesting in any location near a body of water providing an adequate food supply. 



As we were walking on the boardwalk, literally about two feet from the boardwalk was a Great Blue Heron just standing there. As if posing to have his photo taken! 

Whether poised at a river bend or cruising the coastline with slow, deep wing beats, the Great Blue Heron is a majestic sight. This stately heron with its subtle blue-gray plumage often stands motionless as it scans for prey or wades belly deep with long, deliberate steps. They may move slowly, but Great Blue Herons can strike like lightning to grab a fish. In flight, look for this widespread heron’s tucked-in neck and long legs trailing out behind.




One of the most abundant birds across North America, and one of the most boldly colored, the Red-winged Blackbird is a familiar sight atop cattails, along fresh and salt water marshes, and on telephone wires. Glossy-black males have scarlet-and-yellow shoulder patches they can puff up or hide depending on how confident they feel. In the North, their early arrival and tumbling song are happy indications of the return of spring.


This is not one of my favorite sightings, but Mattie would have truly appreciated the Water Snake today!












I preferred looking at this cute frog, who seemed to be staring at me! 















The marsh was filled with damsel flies! I have no idea where the dragon flies were, but these bugs were all aflutter on this clear, sunny, blue sky day.