Drew's Cruisers: Our New Partnership and Program!
The following blog is written by a dear friend of mine, Amanda Slocum, who is now partnering with the Claire Parker Foundation!
To the supporters & followers of The Claire Parker Foundation
My name is Mandy Slocum. I'm a follower of Christ, a nurse and nurse practitioner and Mom of two sweet babies. My first born, Drew, was born Nov 12, 2012 a healthy and precious baby boy. He was diagnosed with Infantile ALL at 5 1/2 months old and we lived the roller coaster cancer journey for the past 2 years while receiving treatment at Levine's Children's Hospital in Charlotte, NC. This past November, we noticed a shift and change in him. He began not wanting to play, fully dependent on us for comfort most of each day and only wanted to be in my arms 24/7. We of course feared a relapse situation but were calmed after bone marrow results came back clean in December. We were relieved and so encouraged. "He must be fighting a virus" we said. Little did we know, that's exactly what was going on, but the virus that was attacking Drew attacked his heart causing irreversible damage and inevitably taking his life very suddenly Jan 2, 2015 at the age of 2 years old. It was called acute viral myocarditis and just about as random as being diagnosed with Infantile Leukemia at 5 months old. How could our baby boy have had the unfortunate luck of being diagnosed with both?
We were 7 months pregnant when we lost Drew and although grateful and blessed for that pregnancy, we were also grateful to have about 8 weeks to grieve our son before her arrival to this world. Our sweet baby girl, Hadley Clara, came into our lives March 25, 2015, and has brought tremendous love and joy to our grieving Mommy and Daddy hearts ever since. It's been so strange to experience such grief over Drew, while experiencing such love of our daughter Hadley. One doesn't cancel the other out nor will that ever be the case. Our journey with pediatric cancer continues, just in a very different direction, one that we never wanted to imagine.
When Drew was diagnosed at 5 1/2 months old with infantile ALL, his only option was to have a central line placed in order to start chemotherapy. Babies are too small for portacaths until a certain age and weight. For a while, his central line would hang out underneath his onesie, putting it at risk of getting soiled by a dirty diaper, pulled, tugged, bit, tangled, you name it. The only other options we found were uncomfortable vests or wraps that just did not do the trick. It was at this point we came up with an idea to adapt the onesies he was already wearing in an effort to keep him as comfortable as possible, as every baby should be, and try our very best to protect the central line that he had to have for at least a year. A close friend to our family helped us… She had the skill and we had the design, and together, we started creating Drew's Cruiser onesies.
Once we got through the bulk of our admissions that first year of treatment and were home on a more regular basis, I had a lot of extra time on my hands as I still wasn't able to return back to work. I bought a surger and a sewing machine and learned how to make them myself. It was heavy on our hearts to help other babies in need, especially after witnessing how great they worked for Drew, and ended up making onesies for other cancer babies in the Levine Oncology clinic as well. We eventually started an etsy website and have sold some to families with babies around the U.S. and even sent some all the way to Canada and Ireland!
Where we are now. Wes and I share the common desire to put energy and effort into raising money to support pediatric cancer research as we sadly know how underfunded it is by NIH. We've also decided it's important for us to be able to help families in a tangible way and the only way we keep circling back to is continuing to make onesies for babies who are forced to face a similar cancer journey. Thanks to a partnership with The Claire Parker Foundation, we will now be adapting and donating all Drew's Cruiser onesies to babies undergoing cancer treatment in 5 pediatric oncology hospitals. (With hopes to connect with more hospitals in time) This foundation was formed by dear friends of ours in honor of their own brave little fighter, their daughter Claire. Claire lost her battle with the same Infantile Leukemia May 17, 2014 and this family has been working tirelessly to form this foundation in her honor in order to give back and support others who face their own cancer journey. This foundation touches newly diagnosed pediatric cancer families in amazing ways and we couldn't be more excited about forming this partnership with them. I've listed their website below which details it all, especially her blog called "Beyond the Box".
How you can help.
In the past, our Drew's Crew supporters would send gift cards and onesies our way in order to help us fund our efforts to donate onesies. Now, with the partnership we've formed with the Claire Parker Foundation, we're fully funded and supported by them, so by donating to the Claire Parker Foundation, you're not only directly helping fund these onesies, but also helping the foundation provide support to so many families currently fighting cancer battles right now.