Meet the National CureSearch Walk Committee
We are very pleased to introduce the inaugural National CureSearch Walk Committee (NCWC). The NCWC is a group of volunteers from across the country who have been involved with the CureSearch Walk for 2+ years and have a desire to help shape the program by lending their collective ideas, opinions, and expertise to the national platform. NCWC were nominated and chosen for their individual contributions to their local Walk and their ideas to help the national CSW program grow.
Below you will find brief bios about each member, their family and their involvement with CureSearch for Children's Cancer.
Kellie & Steve Beresh
Kellie and Steve Beresh are from Omaha, NE and have 3 boys - Jake 17, Brandon 15, and Ben 10. Steve owns his own business that does mechanical insulation and Kellie is a speech pathologist. Their oldest, Jake, is an 11 year Ewing Sarcoma survivor. Soon after his treatment was finished, they started a local foundation with another family to help support children with cancer and their families. After 3 years, the Bereshs and a group of other families realized that although support organizations are great, it would be even greater to not need them. "Wouldn't it be wonderful if children's cancer treatment was effective, safe and short term - not long, harsh, financially draining and without promise of a cure?" says Kellie. "We were angry that there was little research money for children's cancer and that there was not an event that supported that goal. So in 2006, we helped start the Omaha CureSearch Walk for Children's Cancer."
While the name of the Walk has changed a few times since then, their main goal has been constant - create an event where families with both surviving children and angel children could come together to honor and remember those children while raising money for children's cancer research. In 8 years, the Omaha Walk has raised over $1.1 million and grown into a nationwide program. "We are humbled by its success and the hard work that the families that participate put into the event," says Kellie.
John is the father of an 11 year old survivor of Wilms tumor, Danielle. When she was diagnosed at 2 years old, John felt like he was powerless and unable to make a difference. He had to put his trust in Danielle's oncology team and surgeons to make sure Danielle had the best chance she could. It worked out, but if you're reading this, you know that we have progress that still needs to be made.
During Danielle's treatment, her oncologist suggested CureSearch when John & his wife Michelle inquired about what they could do to support the cause of fighting childhood cancer. Upon further examination, CureSearch became the clear choice to channel their efforts and desire to help. He quickly realized that they were not helpless...that they could make a difference...a real one in the lives and likelihood for survival for other kids like Danielle. He has been supporting CureSearch ever since.
John is a consulting manager for Reynolds & Reynolds which is headquartered in Dayton, OH. He is happily married to Michelle and has 2 daughters, Danielle and Lily. John has helped his family create Danielle's Roses Against Childhood Cancer (curesearch.org/DaniellesRoses) which has been the #1 fundraising team in Pittsburgh, PA for 3 years now, and is a 3rd term Chair for the Pittsburgh walk. John and his family have also joined forces with CureSearch to have Danielle's Roses Against Childhood Cancer be a committed CureSearch Champion Fund.
John is excited about the opportunity to help other walks and national efforts grow to help facilitate the cure. John urges everyone to keep in mind that these children cannot advocate for their cause and that they need us to help them vocalize their need for awareness. He looks forward to another great year of supporting CureSearch and more importantly, looks forward to more ground breaking, novel treatments and protocols that CureSearch is helping to bring to reality to help these children fight cancer!
Megan Gertz has been actively involved with CureSearch for four years and co-chair of the Chicago Walk for two years. Megan has worked as a Child Life Specialist at Loyola Medical Center for the past seven years. She works with children and families to help them cope with the challenges of hospitalization and illness. She provides children with age-appropriate preparation for medical procedures, pain management, and coping strategies. Her main focus is oncology patients and children with life threatening illnesses and their families. A personal experience involving a close friend who battled childhood cancer inspired her career more than a decade ago. She is personally dedicated to and passionate about finding a cure and making a difference to anyone who is touched by childhood cancer.
Megan became involved with the CureSearch organization when the Walk came to Chicago. She is extremely dedicated and driven to support the Walk, which directly impacts her patients. As a team captain and co-chair, she enjoys working with families and staff to achieve a common goal. The oncology families and patients continue to inspire Megan's drive to make a difference.
Megan is honored to be on the National CureSearch Walk Committee and looks forward to leading others in saving children's lives. When not working at Loyola or co-chairing the Chicago team, Megan appreciates a good work out or a challenging run. She cherishes spending time with her husband Tom, and precious infant son Nolan.
Josh and Megan Gibson
We are Josh and Megan Gibson and we live in Layton, Utah, and have been married 11 years. JP is 5, he's our cancer kiddo and the oldest. His little sister Elsie is 3 and his baby brother is due in April. Josh works for the IRS and Megan works for JetBlue. We both have degrees in accounting and love making spreadsheets - because we're cool like that! We love to travel as a family and even though our travel is never extravagant (we are very frugal!) we love making memories exploring new surroundings together.
Until JP was diagnosed with ALL in 2012, we had no idea that pediatric cancer research is so underfunded. We can't figure out why, as a society, we put our children first in every respect EXCEPT for cancer research. We love what CureSearch does with their resources - we've seen firsthand the research being done here in SLC at the Huntsman Cancer Institute. We've trusted the research to place our son on a study funded by CureSearch and we went to Washington, DC, last summer with the Alliance for Childhood Cancer as representatives for CureSearch and met with our local congressional offices about the lack of resources for our kids. We are very passionate about this and hope to raise awareness because unless your child is diagnosed with cancer and your ONLY options are 40+ year old drugs to treat them with, you simply don't realize there isn't a better option right now. CureSearch is trying to change that, and we are happy to be involved and support that goal.
We registered our first Salt Lake City CureSearch Walk Team in 2012. Then, we helped with in-kind donations in 2013. Megan stepped into the Event Chair position with Josh as the Registration chair in 2014.
I am mom to 2 wonderful sons - Nathan and Trevor. They married wisely and gave me 2 awesome daughters in law, Whitney and Tiffany. Together, they've given me three incredible grandchildren, Sophie May, Hudson and Bella with another on the way, Lincoln. In June 2012, my oldest (and only at the time) grandchild, Sophie May was diagnosed with stage IV, high risk neuroblastoma. She was 20 months old at the time and had a tumor the size of a softball in her chest. The day I got that news, I felt like a ton of bricks had come crashing down on me. I couldn't breathe, I couldn't cry, I could barely function. I Immediately flew to Dallas to be in on the beginning phase of her journey to beat it. I was supposed to stay for 4 days. I stayed 3 weeks. In between all the initial medical visits, my son and daughter in law asked me to move in with them and help them through her year to year and a half of treatment. I moved from St. Louis, MO to Rockwall, TX and into Nathan and Whitney's home in August 2012 and have since stayed in the Dallas area because I just can't even imagine not being here to help them in any way I can.
Sophie May went through 14 months of treatment including chemo, surgery, stem cell transplant, radiation, immunotherapy and Accutane. I went with Sophie and her parents to every appointment and still go with them to follow up scans. We've met a lot of families following a similar road.
There were so many things I didn't know about childhood cancer before being thrust into this world. I didn't know that the kids don't really get a fair shake when it comes to funding for cancer research. I learned a lot. In those early days, I was looking everywhere for information and help for my kids. I found a lot of that information on the CureSearch website. I was so impressed with this organization and their dedication to changing the world of childhood cancer. I knew I had to figure out a way to help.
Because I have an amazing fiancé, Dave (who also moved to Dallas from St. Louis), I am able to be with my grandbabies, tag along on Sophie's medical visits, and volunteer my time with CureSearch. There's so much to be done. I just hope I can help. I have a deep need to help make some changes in the childhood cancer world.
Sophie May is now NED (no evidence of disease) and is a normal, happy, princess loving, singing, dancing, soccer playing, loving, artistic, creative 4 year old. She is simply amazing! I want to help other families be able to say that about their little fighter and I believe CureSearch is an organization that's going to help us get all the kids to NED...someday.
Eric Mitcheltree is the Director of Charter and Business Development at New World Aviation. He is the father of Reagan, Riley, and Duncan.
Just over 4-years ago, on December 17, 2009, then 2 1/2-year-old Duncan was diagnosed with Wilms tumor stage III after experiencing multiple fevers and lethargy. A CT scan revealed a large mass growing on his kidney, which would lead to the removal of his right kidney and appendix. Duncan then underwent 6 sessions of radiation and 6 months of chemotherapy.
Duncan finished his treatment on June 15, 2010 and just six months later, he and his family signed up to participate in the CureSearch Walk. Eric felt so strongly about educating people about the differences between adult and children's cancer that he agreed to use his leadership skills to chair the Walk.
Participating on the Walk committee, Eric knew he was bound to meet countless new people. While the Mitcheltrees were thankful for all of the support from their parents, family, friends, and church members who helped in very special ways, what they found by meeting others from the children's cancer community was a group of people who truly understood exactly what they were going through. This brought comfort they never expected.
The Chairperson of the Lehigh Valley Walk since it's inception (going into the 4th year), Eric has cultivated an amazing ensemble of committee members, walkers and volunteers. A passionate advocate for children's cancer research he involves himself in all things CureSearch. This is his way of giving back the community that has given him so much. In his down time, Eric enjoys ice hockey, camping and spending time with is family. Eric says he owes his success to his loving and supporting wife, Andrea.
Kristina "Krissy" Pitts lives in Charlottesville, VA with her husband Rob and two daughters, Grace 9 and Anna 4. She graduated from Shenandoah University in 2000 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Dance Performance. Over the past 15 years, Krissy has worked with Crutchfield Corporation and has also been involved in many aspects of dance instruction. In her free time she enjoys attending UVA sporting events, youth soccer games and spending lots of time with her family.
On September 12, 2011, her family's life changed forever. At that time, her 18-month-old Anna was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL). While they were shocked and distraught by the news, they were comforted to hear that she had an 80 to 90% chance of survival. During her 2 1/2 years of treatment, Anna had multiple hospital admissions, weekly clinic visits, blood transfusions, surgeries, sedations, loss of hair, daily medications and chemotherapy infusions.
Anna just recently finished her treatment and is doing very well. Preschool, soccer and play dates have now replaced the extended hospital stays.
Krissy is honored to be a member of the National CureSearch Walk Committee! She has enjoyed helping to organize and participate the Charlottesville Walk over the past two years. She's loved seeing a community come together to raise money for a cause that she is so passionate about. She looks forward to the day when there is a cure! Together we are fighting for the future every child deserves and every parent dreams of.
Christina Thomas lives in Arnold, Maryland with her husband Brian of 17 years and her 3 children: Kyle 16, Dakota 7 and Remy 3. She has been working as a bank teller for BB&T for 13 years.
She has a 4th child, Gavin Storm Thomas, who lost his battle with cancer on April 20, 2006 at the age of two. Gavin was diagnosed with stage 4 neuroblastoma in February 2005, just a week after his first birthday. He was treated at Johns Hopkins Children's Hospital and declared cancer free but, in the end, the cancer did win. He became an angel because of this awful disease. Gavin was a happy, beautiful and strong little hero. He was loved by all and a very special love by his older brother Kyle. I endured the hardest thing that is possible in this world: I held my baby in my arms and watched him die!
My life was forever changed.
I have always wanted to give back and help others. In January 0f 2011, I had new neighbors move in from Colorado. We started talking one day and I learned they also had lost their baby to Neuroblastoma. At that moment I felt that this was meant to be and we were going to do something great together. That September I contacted CureSearch about doing a walk in Annapolis and the rest is history! I started the Annapolis CureSearch Walk in September of 2012 and this year we will be having our 4th walk! We have a small committee of four but we rock the Walk. I very much enjoy giving back and watching my 3 children honor the memory of their amazing brother Gavin.
I am honored to join the National Committee. I feel that it is a wonderful way to get input from people who live or have lived in this world of childhood cancer. I hope to bring great ideas and am very excited to hear what the committee has to say.
Jennifer Watkins and her husband of nine years, Doug, have three children: Nicholas 13, Johnathan 6 and Jenna 4. The family calls Raleigh, North Carolina home. Jennifer works as an assistant pre-school teacher at their church and a stay at home mom to their three children. Jennifer's daughter, Jenna, was diagnosed with stage IV high risk neuroblastoma at 13 months. She was treated for 15 months at UNC Children's Hospital which included 5 rounds of chemo, surgery performed at Sloan Kettering in New York City, a stem cell transplant, radiation and antibody therapy, several surgeries for broviac line placements/removals, G tube placement and biopsies. Jenna was declared cancer free in March 2012 and just celebrated being 2 years (and counting) cancer free!
Jenna continues to be followed very closely through scans and blood/urine levels but thankfully she is doing well, and will participate in the annual CureSearch Walk this year! During treatment at UNC, the family learned of CureSearch and how CureSearch funds clinical trials and innovative research. They participated in their first local CureSearch Walk in 2011 and have been participating ever since! Last year, Jennifer joined the Walk committee and will serve as chair this year. "It is a passion and my heart's desire to help raise awareness and funds for pediatric cancer," says Jennifer. "Supporting CureSearch and helping in their efforts is one way I am able to personally do my part in working towards a cure. I am very excited and honored that I was nominated to be a part of the National CureSearch Walk Committee and am looking forward to the year and hopefully being able to help make things bigger and better and one step closer to a CURE!"
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