Four days past her fourth birthday, my daughter Mandy had to be rushed by ambulance to the University of Maryland Medical Center.
She arrived in critical condition and ultimately was diagnosed with an extremely rare neuroblastoma of the third ventricle or, in terms you and I might understand, a cancerous brain tumor situated in the very center of her brain.
The days, weeks and months that followed remain a blur to my wife and me – the 12-hour surgery, infections, complications, followed by nearly three dozen crippling radiation treatments stretching over months. Despite everything, the tumor continued its relentless growth. Even as she began what would become more than a year of debilitating chemotherapy sessions, the medical professionals overseeing our daughter’s care began to counsel my wife and I to begin preparing for the worse.
Today, more than 32 years after Mandy was first rushed to the hospital, the details of everything that happened still seem like an ugly nightmare. But, rather than the horrendous conclusion that it could have been, Mandy survived her ordeal. It took all of two years, but the chemo finally wiped out the tumor. But, the combination of the tumor, surgery and radiation had left Mandy partially blind and developmentally challenged. She would need extra help the rest of her life.
That’s when we discovered the tremendous work being done by two organizations that benefit from contributions to and through the United Way.
With supportive employment services provided by The Arc Baltimore, Mandy currently works at the Baltimore Animal Rescue and Care Shelter (BARCS). Residing in her own home with a caretaker and a friend she met in school, Mandy today enjoys an active, full life.
For more than 25 years, Mandy has especially enjoyed participating in the Camp Discovery program at the Towson Branch of the Y of Central Maryland. The weekly program offers calisthenics, swimming, crafts, games, singing, and dances for young adults with physical or mental challenges, guided by the caring husband-wife team of Kevin and Bonnie Moran who are assisted by some wonderful volunteers. The camp provides a chance for Mandy to socialize with others, to hone her physical skills and just enjoy herself.
Both The Arc and the “Y” are agencies that benefit from charitable contributions to United Way. I designate a portion of my annual United Way pledge to both organizations, knowing that I can make my donation go further with the 75 cents CareFirst matches on every $1 I pledge as an associate. For me, United Way contributions have directly benefited a member of my family. I pledge to CareFirst’s United Way campaign in thanks for the many blessings bestowed on me and my family.
Even if you have been fortunate enough not to have needed the services provided by the community safety net agencies supported by United Way, I encourage you to make a pledge to ensure that these organizations can continue to do their wonderful work.
***reprinted with permission from Mr. Valentine