What does CureFest mean to me?
When I was asked this question, I thought “I could write a novel and that wouldn’t even come close to expressing how much CureFest means to me”. My family and I attended CureFest for the first time in September 2017, and it has been a yearly tradition, and one that we hold so close to our hearts ever since. The connections we have made at CureFest have become our family- they are the greatest blessings in our lives. It’s more than just a 5-day event- it’s a movement, a voice, a family. Though we may live miles apart, CureFest allows us to come together in person as one, and the fight doesn’t stop there- our hearts and our fight are united and continue as one, 365 days/year, until there is a cure. We are so excited for CureFest 2022 and thankful everyday for the dream team (Dena, Kristen, & Mike) who make it all possible! :)
~ Jen Caruso
The first CureFest I volunteered at was in 2019, and I was beyond thrilled to volunteer again in 2021. It sounds a bit dramatic, but it literally changed my life. I met amazing families that I had followed on social media, and many have become true friends that I speak to regularly. I met kids who are stronger and braver than anyone I know, fighting against the monster that is cancer. I met other volunteers who share the same goal as I - to do our part in raising awareness and increasing funding. CureFest is incredibly uplifting, emotional, inspiring, and truly one of my favorite weekends of the year. This year, my 10-year-old son will accompany me for the first time to volunteer, and I am over the moon to be able to share this absolutely life changing experience with him!
- Robin Reiter, Advocate
After losing our daughter to Ewing’s Sarcoma cancer, I would be remiss if I didn't join thousands of others in denouncing the lack of funding childhood cancer research receives from the federal government. Many of us started our own businesses and nonprofits to give back, but I’m looking at the whole picture now. We need to be working all angles, CureFest allows me to do that…one voice, staying on message so we can get legislation through. Look what happened when we all came together for the STAR Act and the RACE for Children’s Act. That’s progress!
- Rebecca Hastings, CEO/Founder
I have been attending CureFest in our nation’s capitol for almost every year for the past ten years. For me, it is my go-to event of the year. As a childhood cancer advocate, it’s exciting to see so many families gathered together who are determined to improve the outcomes of children fighting cancer. Their collective spirit recharges my passion and gives me and others hope that we, together, can and will make a difference in the lives of children who are now, or may be in the future, fighting cancer. As important as it is for me, it’s even more important for the kids to see that they are not alone. They will meet others, make lasting friendships and encourage each other long after CureFest is over. Come, bring the family this September and mix a little action with your passion!
Joe Baber, Virginia Beach, VA
Grandpa and Advocate Extraordinaire
We just finished our first CureFest and loved it! It was amazing to be around so many amazing people and families that understand what we've been through. We lost our daughter just months ago and have made it our mission to advocate for change as well as run our non-profit in her honor.
- Curtis Vallier, Dad to Jaycee who gained her angel wings at age 8 on 7/3/2021
I am in absolute awe over everything that happened with the White House Cancer Moonshot Childhood Cancer forum, the CAC2 reception, and CureFest, and this entire trip has been incredible. It also reminded me often that some of the best people are in the childhood cancer community, who I am blessed to call my friends, my community, and "my people." Whenever I am with "my people", there is a sense of comfort and an inherent understanding because you do not have to explain certain elements of yourself. Further explanations needed outside the childhood cancer community are not necessary, and that is beyond refreshing! The best part is that there can be camaraderie and like-mindedness with other childhood cancer patients and survivors, and the bond between them goes well beyond CureFest and friends are made for life! At CureFest 2022, I felt among "my people" and I imagine that many others feel the same way! It was wonderful to see the support and relationships that have formed, and I know that I would have benefited greatly if CureFest was available when I was a teenager because I would have loved to connect with just one survivor! Except for the last 6 1/2 years that I have worked with childhood cancer nonprofits, I did not know anything was available to me because as an older survivor, it either had not existed, or by the time something was available, I had already aged out of the programs! I did not have any nonprofits, the Internet did not exist as we know it, and I did not meet another person that had neuroblastoma until 2016! This is a terrifying, lonely, emotional, isolating road that few understand, and it can lead to depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues. This is why I am so passionate about survivorship, and providing important tools to help survivors have better lives and a better quality of life. I want to improve the lives of survivors to make sure that their experiences were better than what was available to me and from what I experienced. CureFest certainly fulfills these goals for many, and I cannot express how thankful I am for the opportunity to attend as a nonprofit professional and a neuroblastoma survivor.
CureFest has another purpose of bringing together the childhood cancer community, and shining a spotlight on the need for more education, awareness, advocacy, and research dollars in our community. Even more importantly, however, are the ways that CureFest honors and remembers the children who have died from childhood cancer - there is a candlelight vigil where each child's name is read, and the shoe memorial at the Washington Monument lays out 1,800 pairs of shoes to illustrate the 1,800 children that die from cancer each year. Some of the bereaved parents/caregivers attend CureFest and experience these events, and while it can be extremely emotional and difficult, this is an important aspect of childhood cancer and these children deserve to be honored.
- Mariah Forster Olson, Neuroblastoma Survivor
Coalition Against Childhood Cancer (CAC2)
Board Secretary and Survivorship Lead
(Mariah, on left, pictured with her best friend and fellow survivor, Carolyn)
“CAC2 was proud to be a 2021 CureFest sponsor. We thank the organizers, volunteers, and participants who help unify our community every September when we meet in Washington DC and virtually across the country and the world. Countless times throughout the weekend I found myself awed and inspired by what you and your team creates. I look forward to working with you in the future and again, thank you for the remarkable impact you are making for the childhood cancer community."
- Mandy Spielvogle Powell, Managing Director
“This was my first CureFest event and I felt very supported. The speakers were motivating and the musical and dance performances were moving. Thank you for organizing the community to raise awareness and providing the opportunity for individuals from across the country to meet, support one another and potentially collaborate. I will be sure to attend next year if you continue this event.”
- Ann Ramer from Ohio
Mom to Brent, who passed away at age18 on 12/30/2017, and Lauren, age 19 and 2x multiple cancer survivor