Patty Daniel’s 46 Mile journey began a year before she set foot on a fundraising path. It began at Nashville’s Vanderbilt University Medical Center, at the side of her then 8-year-old son, Gus, who’d just been diagnosed with a very rare, high-risk form of leukemia.
Only 2 percent of patients get this diagnosis, Patty’s family was told.
The treatment became a battle Patty would learn is familiar for families facing childhood cancer. In the first year after his diagnosis, Gus received long, heavy doses of chemotherapy. He fought through every one.
Patty wanted to honor and mirror her son’s resilience. She wanted some support, too. Like most new cancer parents, she was scared, and seeking others who could understand the rollercoaster of emotions she and her family were feeling.
The team at Vanderbilt connected the Stranch family to the Rally Foundation’s Nashville office, where Patty found the community—and mission—she needed.
“Pediatric cancer parents love and appreciate the support,” Patty said. “but at the end of the day, what we want more than anything is a cure for our children. Cures come from research and research takes money. When only 4% of federal cancer research funds go to children, you begin to understand just how critical Rally Foundation is and how important it is to support what they are doing.”
When Patty learned Rally gives 92 cents of every dollar it raises directly to childhood cancer research—the same research that gave Gus a chance to fight cancer—she knew she had to Rally herself.
Gus’s cancer went into remission, though most of the first year was spent at the hospital or at home, inside, by Gus’s side. Rally’s 46 Mile Challenge, in which participants get active any way they like for a duration of 46 miles in a 30-day period, offered Patty and her sons a way to reintegrate into their community while also getting friends and loved ones involved in a mission that had become vital to them.
Patty went straight to Facebook, posting a 46 Mile fundraising page and encouraging her friends to join her either by starting their own challenge or donating to hers. Her personal story, and the stories of the families she met while in treatment, kept her accountable. She strived for success knowing the dollars she raised could be helping kids just like Gus.
Her daily walk, bike or run turned into her favorite part of the day.
“I was grateful and surprised at how much participation benefited me on a personal level. Not only was it helping raise money for childhood cancer research, it brought me back into the normal, cancer-free world when I did my 46 miles,” she said. “It was my therapy to get out into the sunshine and be able to reconnect after many months of being at home or at the hospital.”
Her boys, Gus and Teddy, started to join her for her daily miles. Gus would ride his bike alongside his mom, feeling strong enough after his treatment, knowing that every mile made a difference.
Patty finished her 46 Mile Challenge with huge community support, raising more than $2,000 with both of her sons right by her side.
Today, Gus is 10 years old. He’s still receiving monthly treatments at Vanderbilt, a hospital that receives funds for childhood cancer research directly from Rally. Gus will continue to face the challenge of taking chemo pills every night, steroids every month and spinal chemotherapy for the next eighteen months, until research can provide a better option for post-cancer maintenance.
Patty, Gus and Teddy will tackle the 46 Mile Challenge again this year, to continue to raise funds and awareness for childhood cancer research. To find better treatments and, ultimately, a cure. For Gus. For kids just like him.