On September 20th, the Amanda Riley Foundation will celebrate 6 years of serving children diagnosed with cancer, and their families.
Barbara and Steve Riley established the Foundation to honor their daughter Amanda, who at age 17 lost her battle with cancer. “We strive every day to keep her smile alive, on the faces of other children,” said Barbara Riley, Amanda’s mom. “No child should have to fight this battle alone.”
According to Barbara, in 2010, “(the Foundation was) very small, so we could only do small things, like providing meals, snacks, toiletry kits, things like that.” She remembers needing those things during the long hospital stays that were part of Amanda’s life, and theirs. Fortunately, the Chick-Fil-A on Scenic Highway embraced the Foundation early on, making a difference by providing meals and more.
“They hosted the first Angel Tree there,” said Barbara. The Angel Tree initiative allows the Foundation to provide Christmas presents to cancer patients at Scottish Rite Hospital. Last year, they gave presents to 95 children – patients and siblings.
Since 2010, other companies have come alongside the Foundation, providing meals, gift cards and monetary donations for the children and families. “We set some pretty high goals at the end of 2015,” Barbara said. Survivor Support is one goal. For example, the Foundation has helped a child get a custom-made racing wheelchair. His dream is to compete in the 2020 Paralympics.
Another goal set last year is related to fertility. This year, teen girls fighting cancer are told about harvesting and preserving their eggs. “We made a twentyfive thousand dollar commitment to this in 2016,” Barbara said.
The Foundation is also committed to funding research. “We’ve dreamed of funding a research grant for rhabdomyosarcoma (the cancer with which Amanda was diagnosed),” Barbara said. This year, the Foundation funded a $25,000 grant for a Harvard research scientist working on a promising treatment for relapse Rhabdo. “When doctors told us that Amanda had relapsed, we were told that there was nothing else they could do,” Barbara said. “No parent should ever hear those words.”
Inpatient support is another area on which the Foundation will continue to focus. Providing meals, snacks, goody bags and gift bags for patients and families at Scottish Rite brings a bright spot to what might otherwise be a dark day.
Direct support of children with solid-tumor cancers, like Amanda’s, is the fourth area of the Foundation’s continued focus. These are high-risk cancers. “We support the entire family, in any way that they need support,” Barbara said. Whether it’s a utility bill that might go unpaid, or a plane ticket for surgery, a hotel room, car payment, whatever the family needs to keep going while they take care of their child, that’s what we provide whenever possible. Families’ needs are real, often urgent. “Sometimes one parent has to quit a job because of all the doctor appointments and long hospital stays. Your whole world changes overnight.”
A new initiative in 2016 is called 1000 Reasons to Smile. “We ask a child battling cancer what they would do with a thousand dollars, then we do it. One girl asked for a Sweet Sixteen party. One child asked for a beach trip. We do whatever they ask, within reason of course.”
“We’re small, but we have huge hearts. We try to help the children and families living with cancer in any way we can. By doing so, we honor Amanda every day.”
For more information about the Amanda Riley Foundation, visit www.amandarileyfoundation.org.