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Helping hands

Gage, Savannah, and Jace Maloney. (submitted photo).1 / 6
Left to right: Kylie Kahlstorf, Kristin Ahlers, Savannah Maloney, Peyton Ahlers, Lynsey Maloney 2 / 6
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Each blanket made by A Measure of Healing Hearts comes with a tag. (submitted photo).4 / 6
Lynsey Maloney in twins shirt, 5 / 6
Lynsey Maloney started the nonprofit, A Measure of Healing Hearts, after her twin boys were born with stage 4 neuroblastoma. They are healthy four-year-olds now, and her goal is to raise money to help other families, raise awareness and someday donate to research. (submitted photo).6 / 6

Grieving parents will often start a nonprofit after the loss of a child in an effort to raise awareness or help other families that find themselves in similar circumstances. Often it's a way to focus their grief and energy and make sense of their loss. But Lynsey Maloney of Deer Creek didn't start her non profit out of grief.

No, instead, her inspiration for the nonprofit, A Measure of Healing Hearts for Childhood Cancer, came from her healthy, inquisitive, twin-four year-old boys, Jace and Gage, born with neuroblastoma, a cancer of the nervous system. They are now, however, cancer free.

"I started the nonprofit almost right after we came home in 2014 because I wanted to raise awareness of childhood cancer and help local families in our area with childhood cancer, and eventually when we get big enough I want to donate to research," Maloney said.

She knows the name is kind of long, but there is a reason for it. "The meaning of Gage is measure, and the meaning of Jace is healing."

Her latest project through the nonprofit, donating 68 homemade blankets to Children's Hospital in Minneapolis where the boys received treatment for their cancer, is her way of letting the children and families know they have people rooting for them.

"I'm all about helping people," Maloney said.

Cuddles for Comfort is what Maloney is calling the project, and it's something she plans on doing every fall because she thinks blankets to cuddle up in the fall sounds like a good idea, especially if you are going to be stuck in the hospital, like her boys were right after they were born.

A hard start

Maloney's story starts the day her boys were born. There was no indication anything was wrong until after their birth. The pediatrician noticed Jace's abdomen was distended and an ultrasound showed a primary mass and a metastasized mass. That day he was airlifted to Children's Hospital in Minneapolis.

The next day the pediatrician felt that since the twins had shared a placenta, Gage should be checked. They found he also had a tumor and he was airlifted to Children's Hospital in Minneapolis. At eight days old, both boys were started on chemotherapy.

"Their prognosis was good, it was stage four intermediate risk, which means it's treatable with just chemotherapy and they were given a 60-70 percent chance of being fine," Maloney said.

The chemotherapy lasted six months with eight full rounds and, she added with relief in her voice, they were declared to have no evidence of disease on Feb. 26, 2014.

"It was a very scary time," said Maloney. "There isn't any history of that in the family, and I had not heard of anyone with childhood cancer. It just happens. A gene mutation is what the doctor said."

Now, the Maloneys are very aware of the prevalence of childhood cancer and want to help others in the area going through the same thing.

Maloney laughs when she talks about their first project for the nonprofit. It didn't go so well. But, she feels they learned from it, and now she thinks they've found their fundraising niche.

"It's hard to get up and going with a non profit," she said. "We have the 5K in the fall we do with Otter Fest and we raise sweet corn and sell it at different locations, and the money we raise from those we donate to local families."

She would like to keep making blankets because so many kids from the area have received care at Children's Hospital in Minneapolis. She feels it's a great one to help out.

"Making blankets isn't cheap, and this year we used donations from the Schik family in New York Mills, after making sure they were okay with it. Their daughter Lucy went to the Children's hospital for treatment, and they thought the blankets were a great idea."

They also took some to the cardiac unit. The group's vice president, who is also Maloney's sister, Ashly, has a three-year-old daughter, Emma. Emma is fighting complications from open heart surgery.

"This is her second open heart surgery, so we wanted to bring some blankets to that floor too; she's been in the hospital for six weeks," Maloney said.

Maloney is grateful to Hometown Fabrics for donating material and the volunteers who helped make the blankets.

If anyone would like to donate material for future blankets, they will accept donations, and since they are a 501(3)(c), donations are tax deductible. Maloney can be contacted at lynsey//www.mhhccgold.org or visit their Facebook page. For information on how Ella is doing, go to www.youcaring.com/andrewandashlyeaston-1007498.

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