Talk to Alicia Dennison for five minutes and it quickly becomes apparent just how passionate and committed she is to raising awareness of childhood cancer while providing support to local children and families actively engaged in fighting the disease.
Dennison founded Golden Kidz in 2010 after a childhood friend’s daughter was diagnosed with cancer. The non-profit 501(c)3 organization helps local families by providing financial and emotional support while linking them to others who are experiencing a similar situation.
“Through seeing what she went through to what was going on, I wanted to be that lifeline for people. I wanted Golden Kidz to be the lifeline,” Dennison explained.
Golden Kidz is working with a half-dozen local families in Ohio, West Virginia and Kentucky, who have children receiving cancer treatments at Cabell Huntington’s Pediatric Oncology Unit. Golden Kids has organized parties for the children, provides gas and food gift cards to families in addition to providing individualized and unique support to families. For example, Dennison arranged a visit from Batman for a 5-year-old who was undergoing a painful treatment on his birthday, “just so his mother could see him smile.”
“Alicia is a link in a chain that becomes a support system. She brings families together to support each other,” said Stephanie Hall, a Golden Kidz director. “Through what she does, it is a lifeline. It is a link of support that is not only monetary,” said Hall, noting Dennison often spends time at the hospital simply holding a mother’s hand while her child undergoes treatment.
“We want people to know there is an outlet, somewhere they can go,” said Hal., “Someone to talk to, if there is a childhood cancer or if even they just suspect something is wrong.”
Childhood cancers can be hard to diagnose, Dennison said. Often parents know something is wrong, but it can take weeks or months before a diagnosis is clear. For example, she said, leukemia often presents itself as the flu.
Golden Kidz is also committed to raising public awareness of the disease, which affects thousands of U.S. children each year. This is critically important to funding research that can eventually stamp out childhood cancer, insist Dennison and Hall. Childhood cancer does not have the awareness and high-profile advocacy other cancers, most notably breast cancer, have.
Most know the color for breast cancer is pink and October is awareness month, but not many know a gold ribbon is for childhood cancer, which has an awareness month celebrated in September. “Where is all the gold?” asked Dennison emphatically. “Our babies are dying!”
Dennison said most people don’t realize how many children are affected by childhood cancer, which is the leading cause of death by disease of children in the United States. Each day, 46 children are diagnosed with a childhood cancer, and each day seven children die from cancer, said Dennison.
“Compare it to a school shooting,” she says. “Can you imagine if there was a school shooting every day and 46 children died?”
What also frustrates Dennison is that there are also no specific childhood cancer treatments. Children simply recieve parred down adult treatments. “There have been no specific new medicines for childhood cancer in 30 years,” she points out.
Golden Kidz wants to change that.
“We want to be that front line,” said Hall.
To do so, Golden Kidz is in need of additional volunteers, sponsorships and donations to continue serving families and reaching out to even more in the area who are battling childhood cancers.
For more information about Golden Kidz, visit GoldenKidz.org, like them on Facebook, or call (502) 713-KIDZ (5439) or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
CARRIE STAMBAUGH can be reached at (606) 326-2653 or by email at email@example.com