I met Mike while attending the University of South Carolina. After graduation, we relocated to Charleston, SC, put down new roots, and got married. Michael had a successful career as a mechanical engineer and I worked as an instructor at the College of Charleston. Life was good. It was normal. We were happy. Shortly after our son, Jack, was born, however, our life swerved off course. Mike was diagnosed with stage III head and neck cancer. Mike was a healthy 29 year old, non drinker, non smoker partner with a life-changing and life-limiting disease. After three years and the fight of his life, Michael passed away in April 2014, at 32 years old.
At the time of his passing, our son, Jack, was four years old, and our baby, Harper Rose, was three months old. I soon realized the great impact Mike’s illness and his death had on our young son.
Jack needed a way to cope with the loss of his father and I knew I didn’t have the resources, physically or emotionally, to help him. Luckily, I came across an advertisement for a camp for kids like Jack. I just had to get him there.
After attending the camp in Summer 2016, Jack came home less angry, carrying with him the knowledge that he was not the only child who had lost his Daddy. I knew then that we needed this type of support closer, not only for our family but other families like us. With the help of a supportive group of family, friends, and community members, we began the journey of creating an organization that could offer that support.
In September 2016, The Lonon Foundation was formed, hosting our first event, the Hike for Mike that same month.
All proceeds went to establishing our first program: UPLIFT (Using Play, Love, Inspiration and Friendship as Therapy), co-founded by College of Charleston students, Dari Goldman, Alyssa Gallo, and McKenzie Wofford. This monthly program, which runs Aug-May, provides in-person and virtual events at no cost to children 5-17 years old who have been affected by their parent’s or caregiver’s cancer.
UPLIFT families can also receive additional financial support through our mini grant program, as well as ongoing resources from our on-staff Certified Child Life Specialist who provides personalized support for our children and families.
It is an honor to provide a community for these brave, inspiring children as they go through something that no child should have to…and not by themselves. We thank you for your support.