As you know, the motto of A Girl & A Gun is “It’s More Than Shooting.” Though our national Giving Back program, we support several causes important to our community. One of those causes is pediatric brain cancer, and so as a league we observe Brain Cancer awareness month in May.
Unfortunately, this cause is part of the journey of AG & AG because it hit really close to home. On April 9, 2015, my then-5-year-old daughter, Kiara, was diagnosed with a massive brain tumor and rushed into emergency surgery. Her brain tumor was discovered just a week before the 3rd Annual AG & AG National Conference, with more than 300 women gathering in Austin, TX, but my life froze in time.
It was as though God gathered an army of His strongest warriors for us that week: Mothers, daughters, sisters, friends, and strangers prayed for Kiara with thunderous resolve. Women shooting on the range would cease fire and those in lecture classes would stop, and they would take selfies and text me to let me know their love was there with us in the ICU. Throughout the day and night, I received constant prayers and encouragement.
On the night of our Conference Bang-quet, the nurses assured me that Kiara was stable, so my mother-in-law stayed with her while my husband and mother took me to say hello to the women at Conference. I was there just a brief time, and during the visit a giant rainbow emerged over the tent! It was special and powerful for our AG & AG sisterhood. This moment was also the catalyst for our AG & AG motto ‘It’s More Than Shooting.’ It’s not a catchy tagline or marketing slogan; it’s so much more. I couldn’t have made it through those dark days without these strong women — and so many others around the world — standing with me.
Since then, I have used my position in AG & AG to educate others about the symptoms of pediatric brain cancer, so that families can get help more quickly. Know the signs of pediatric brain cancer: Ataxia (poor balance), Nausea, Headaches, Fatigue, Blurred Vision. I also like to support charities and foundations that are working to improve the lives of the fighters and fund research for a cure.
When Kiara was diagnosed, it sent our family into chaos. With the surgeries, hospital stay, and recovery, we were tired, petrified, financially challenged, and lost. We were juggling treatments, specialist appointments, therapies, and vision loss all while trying to keep “normalcy” for our boys, who were in 2nd and 12th grades. In our darkest days, we received a kit from The Cooper Trooper Foundation with a book that helped us talk to our boys about their feelings and fears, so we could pick up the pieces of our shattered lives. This simple gift reclaimed and healed our family. Using the book in the kit, I was able to communicate with my sons about their journeys and support all 3 of my children in the ways they needed. It helped me be a better mother and make our family whole again. Since then, I have wanted to let others know about this amazing family-run foundation.
The Cooper Trooper Foundation’s mission is to support the fight against childhood cancer in two tangible ways:
- Distribution of Caring and Courage Kits to the well siblings of children diagnosed with cancer. The Cooper Trooper Courage Kits assist parents/guardians in addressing socio-emotional and psychotherapy needs of well siblings of children diagnosed with cancer. The kits are provided at the onset of diagnosis in a clinical setting for parents to bring home to their well children, thus serving as a proactive, caring, educational resource for helping the siblings, who are often feeling “left out” during this time.
- Financially investing in The Cooper Trooper Foundation Pediatric Cancer Research Endowment Fund, which is set up at Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt. Only about 3% of the federal cancer research budget goes specifically to pediatric cancer research. The American Cancer Society spends less than 70 cents for each $100.00 raised on childhood cancers. This is not acceptable. There needs to be more money spent to research treatments, and more importantly, find cures for this horrible disease that is the #1 killer of our children. The Endowed Fund initiated by the Cooper Trooper Foundation, financially supports research specific to childhood cancers.
Although I’ve never met them, the Cooper Trooper Foundation means a lot to me. You can support them through AG & AG, make direct contributions, or if you are near the Franklin, TN, area, you can support the Foundation by buying your Halloween pumpkin at their annual pumpkin patch fundraiser. Since 2015, AG & AG has made annual donations to this group and raised awareness whenever possible.
Kiara is now 13 and still in the battle. After 5 brain surgeries, 17 months of weekly infusions, 24 months of daily oral chemotherapy, and complete loss of her eyesight, she persists! She is smart, strong, and capable! She is in her middle school band and on the cheer squad. She has a bright future — and we need a cure to get her there.
Please #GoGrayinMay to raise awareness for the need for brain cancer treatments, for my family and others in the fight.
Ways to Participate
$5 from every shirt sale goes to the Cooper Trooper Foundation:
Take aim on cancer and raise awareness by using our Cancer Awareness targets at the range:
- Cancer Awareness Target$14.50 – $360.00
#GoGray by wearing gray and posting on FB or IG during May!