Nine-year-old Tatum Parker was diagnosed with bone cancer shortly before her sixth birthday. She underwent 13 chemotherapy treatments at Riley Children's Hospital and lost her curly hair, but gained a twinkle in her eye, a beautiful smile and emotional strength that few of us ever possess.
Tatum received a big backpack full of educational and silly toys to brighten her day during her chemo treatments. The gift was from the Colorado-based Gabby Krause Foundation and Tatum enjoyed her hours with the bag so much that her parents thought it would be wonderful to seek permission from the Krause Foundation to have Tatum's Bags of Fun in Indiana so all pediatric cancer patients age two and older could have age-appropriate activities to enjoy on their first day of cancer treatments.
Jayson and Kendra Parker launched the project with Tatum's enthusiastic support. Younger brothers Tynan, 6, and Truitt, 3, helped chose games and books for the bags. Last year, that Parker family provided 300 backpacks to pediatric cancer patients at Riley Children's Hospital and Peyton Manning Children's Hospital at St.Vincent.
Tatum visits cancer patients when she returns to Riley for follow-up appointments.
Even when Tatum's cancer returned in her right lung in 2008 and she had to take an additional 11 chemo-treatments and 25 radiation treatments, at Tatum's insistence, the family resolved to find a way to continue Tatum's Bags of Fun.
The good News is that Tatum celebrated excellent results in October 2009 and has enjoyed a full year of good health, school and athletics. Tatum was a member of my Junior Summer Wonders Tennis program this summer and she learned to play games and sets and enjoyed being on a team. Everyone loves Tatum, and for that she won our Best Attitude Award.
How can you help? On September 11th, the Parkers are having a big Family Day at the Riviera Club, 5640 N. Illinois St. Indianapolis, starting with the Merrill Lynch Bull Run to benefit Tatum's Bags of Fun. The day begins at 8:30 a.m. with a 5-mile run, 3-mile walk and lots of kids activities. Kids under 12 are free. Advanced registration is $20 and $25 the day of the event. Visit http://tatums.bagsoffun.org and you'll find ways to donate a $350 bag in her name and participate in all the activities of the September 11th Family Day.
Tatum's Bags of Fun is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to delivering a backpack of age-appropriate toys and activities to every newly diagnosed pediatric cancer patient.