Inspired by kindness
With gleeful babbling and constant smiles, Jace and Gage Maloney appeared to be ordinary, happy infants as they sat in their high chairs Monday afternoon at home in Deer Creek.
"They're a lot of fun," said their mother, Lynsey Maloney.
But the twins aren't exactly typical 11-month-olds; they're survivors, in remission from stage four neuroblastoma, a rare form of pediatric cancer that affects the nervous system.
The formidable support the Maloneys received from friends, family and strangers during the boys' six months of chemotherapy motivated Lynsey to create A Measure of Healing Hearts for Childhood Cancer, a non-profit organization with a three-fold mission: increase awareness of childhood cancer, raise money for a cure and support families enduring similar struggles.
"That's what inspired us the most," Lynsey said. "We got so much help our way, I wanted to help other people as well."
On Aug. 12 last year, Lynsey gave birth to Jace and Gage.
For the young mother and her husband Casey, delight turned quickly to dismay when doctors noticed Jace had a distended abdomen, then an ultrasound revealed a tumor. He was immediately airlifted to Children's Hospital in Minneapolis. The next day, doctors discovered lesions on Gage's liver and he joined his brother at Children's.
"It was really bad," Lynsey said. "It was really hard."
A few days later, the Maloneys learned the diagnosis: their twin boys had neuroblastoma. Doctors told them Jace and Gage were only the tenth set of twins in the world born with the cancer.
Earlier this year, near the end of eight rounds of chemotherapy, Lynsey started A Measure of Healing Hearts for Childhood Cancer. Starting a non-profit foundation isn't easy, she said, and she's grateful for the help of her mother and aunt, along with her friend, Jennifer Saari, secretary of the organization's board.
So far, the non-profit has hosted one event, Super Kiddie Fun Day/Adult Night at Thumper Pond.
"We're learning as we go," Saari said, acknowledging the first fundraiser wasn't as successful as they would have liked.
The next event will be a 5K fundraiser at 8 a.m. Aug. 9 during Otterfest in Ottertail. Registration - which includes a T-shirt - costs $25.
In September, the organization will hold a raffle with cash prizes.
Some of the proceeds from both events will go to support families with children undergoing cancer treatment and a portion will go toward CureSearch, an organization that raises money for childhood cancer research.
A Measure of Healing Hearts is also focused on making people aware of childhood cancer - the number one cause of death by disease in children.
Unless they're personally affected, a lot of people don't know about it, Saari said.
"Kids get cancer, too," the mother-of-three said. "The first time I looked at the numbers, I cried. I didn't realize how bad it actually was."
Each day, 42 American kids are diagnosed with cancer, according to the CureSearch website.
A Measure of Healing Hearts features a "Hero of the Month" on its Facebook page, telling the stories of Minnesota children suffering from cancer.
To learn more about the organization, to register for the 5K or to send a donation, go to ameasureofhealinghearts.org.