Raising Hope

October welcomes pumpkin patches, snuggly sweaters and trick-or-treating. However, this could be the last time that Deliece Hofen gets to experience such fall festivities with her nine year old son.

Braden Hofen is a fourth grader at Morse Elementary School who was diagnosed at age three with stage four neuroblastoma, a rare form of childhood cancer. Neuroblastoma typically starts in the kidneys and can spread to other sites like the liver or bones. There is no known cure for neuroblastoma and Braden has less than a 10 percent chance of survival by August 2016.

“I have memorized my son’s face, fingers, toes, eyelashes, everyt

hing because I have feared the day when I would say goodbye to him and never see him again,” Deliece said in her online blog.

Not only was her son diagnosed with neuroblastoma, but Deliece was also diagnosed with breast cancer in 2010 at the same time that Braden was struggling through a relapse. They went through chemotherapy together in the summ

er of 2010. Along with her breast cancer, Deliece had been battling Multiple Sclerosis (MS) for many years before that.

“I was absolutely in shock,” Deliece said. “[I was] hoping there was some kind of mistake. Then reality sunk in, and I simply had to fight for my son who was the bravest person I ever have known.”

When Deliece was diagnosed with cancer, she learned more information about her breast cancer

in a one hour appointment than she had about Braden’s neuroblastoma in the two years he had been fighting. Deliece was astonished by the amount o

f information  that was available about breast cancer compared to how much was known about Braden’s cancer. She researched more and discovered that childhood cancer was the number one disease killer of children. Likewise, she found out that childhood cancer received almost no funding or awareness.

Deliece’s research made her eager to take a stand, so she created Braden’s Hope, a foundation that raises money and awareness for childhood cancer. It has gotten recognition from the Kansas City Chiefs, Kansas City Royals and Sporting Kansas City. “American Idol” winner David Cook also created a Facebook

 page in honor of Braden.

So far, Braden’s Hope has educated thousands of people and raised over $100,000.

“Research brings hope for treatments that can end cancer. It’s really that simple,” Deliece said. “We want to be able to fund enough research that we put ourselves out of ‘business’ because there isn’t a need.”

Seventh grader Bethie Gregory from Aubry Bend Middle School created a fundraiser for Braden’s Hope at Southwest. She bought 3,000 water bottles and decided to sell them at $5 apiece at home football games. All of the profits went towards Braden’s Hope and childhood cancer. So far, the Southwest community has helped Bethie raise $3,000.

“It may be simple, but I’m trying to change the lives of children with cancer everywhere and really make a difference,” Gregory said.

Students at Southwest have created their own way to raise awareness. Many students wear Braden’s Hope T-shirts in order to spread the word. Southwest students are recognizing cancer more and the impact it can have on a person’s life.

“I know a lot of people at Southwest that have been affected by cancer, and we need to create more of a community around that because it affects people more than they think it does,” sophomore Freddie Charlesworth said. “It’s really inspiring that they [The Hofens] are doing so much with the foundation and really pushing to keep hope, even when I know it’s really easy to lose that hope.”

Along with Braden’s Hope, students have raised awareness in other various ways. Since October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, students have  come together to support. Every year, Southwest has a pink night football game where everyone dresses in pink for the cause. The drill team and the girls golf team also sold breast cancer T-shirts at lunch.

“I think pink out is a good way to show our support  and to make people more aware of the impact that cancer has,” Charlesworth said. “People always come together and get really excited for it.”

Along with annual pink-out nights, Southwest hosted Relay For Life last year for Blue Valley West and Blue Valley and is planning it for this year, as well. Relay for a Life is an event through The American Cancer Society where students stay awake through a whole night and recognize those who have been affected by cancer.

All the proceeds made during Relay For Life are donated toward cancer research. Last year, together the schools raised $127,000, which was ranked nationally 10th among all of the Relay for Life events being held.

“I think it’s [Relay For Life] a great opportunity to make an impact on our community and truly make an impact on this terrible disease,” co-president of Relay For Life Connor Davis said.

Events like these are creating hope for those affected by cancer. Southwest has created a community through various events to support and raise cancer awareness.

“BVSW rocks,” Deliece said. “The entire school has done so much for Braden and our kiddoes with cancer. SW is raising their voices to help inform others and that means so much to every parent who has a child with cancer, especially me.”