Dear JEM Project: Thank You For Being the Team Who Kept Madison’s & ISF’s Mission on Course

It’s hard to put into words how grateful we are for the impact The JEM Project’s $250,000 donation to ISF is creating for kids fighting rare pediatric cancer and for our community.  Follow along this week as we share ‘Thank You’ letters from many of those who feel the incredible significance of their gift.

Madison’s Mom shares what this donation can do for other families fighting pediatric cancer…

Dear JEM Project, 

“What do you want to be when you grow up?” – the all too common question asked to kids when they are little.  My answer was always “a teacher”, but in my heart I just wanted to be a mom.  When Mickey and I got married we talked about having a big family, and would have been perfectly happy with our own reality show “Fedak’s Fab Fifteen”, but God had other plans.  In 2009, Riley was born.  She was beautiful and healthy, and you couldn’t tell me the world didn’t revolve around her.  We were blessed again when God gave us Madison in 2012, and immediately I knew how lucky I was to be a mom to two of the most beautiful, precious little people.  Our “parenting” story would stop with Riley and Madison, and we were both perfectly happy with that.  Our lives were going great, until they weren’t.

Neither of my babies ever went to the doctor unless it was a regular checkup or the occasional ear infection.  We rarely had fevers, no broken bones, and no extreme injuries.  But on April 5, 2018, Madison’s pain took us to an emergency room that gave us the most devastating news any parent could receive.  I’m pretty sure you know that story by now, but what you don’t know is that in my mind, I kept questioning, “What did I do wrong?”.  My thoughts immediately went back to my pregnancy with her.  Did I stand too close to the microwave?  Did I use my cell phone too much?  Was a computer too close to my belly?  What did I eat?  Did I eat the right things?  Did I eat something wrong?    For two years I have argued with myself that I could have done something to have stopped this before it even began, but I have just recently realized that it isn’t about what I did before she was diagnosed, it’s about what I am going to do now.  Now that I know this disease can steal a child from her momma without warning, I have to be a part of something that will look to the future and figure out a way that no other Madison will ever lose her life to this ugly disease. 

When I talked to Rachel, ISF Marketing Director, in early January, she shared that the ISF team was furious.  They were all so angry and disappointed that the work they were doing was not enough to save Madison.  She shared that they were working on raising funds for research trials in Madison’s honor, and I was thrilled!  My first thought was, “Madison might not be here anymore, but she is still affecting people!”  Madison was a tiny little girl who can still make a difference, and I had to be a part of continuing the fight she began.

Rachel asked if I would be willing to speak at a breakfast/coffee event for ISF, and truthfully I had mixed emotions.  It wasn’t that I was scared to speak in front of so many people, I was honestly scared that my words wouldn’t be powerful enough to raise the money.  I was worried that I would fail the entire team, or worse that I would fail Madison.  I wrestled with the idea because Madison had only been gone for a few weeks, and at the time of the event it will still be so fresh and raw.  But I also knew what better way to make an impact than to share those raw feelings.  Knowing how important that week was for ISF in terms of fundraising, I was devastated COVID-19 had cancelled the event.  Not having this event meant not having the money. 

But then Rachel called me again in early April and shared the unbelievable news that you and your team pledged $250,000.  There hasn’t been a word created yet (and I’ve looked) to adequately describe the overwhelming feelings of gratitude I have right now. Through your more than generous donation, I have realized there is no way I can fail as long as Madison’s story continues to be told.  I’ve shared recently that my biggest fear no longer exists. I feared for two years that osteosarcoma would take Madison from me, and it did.  I can’t hold her or tuck her in at night.  I can’t pick out her clothes or run to her when she calls me in the middle of the night.       

Cancer stole so much from me; it stole from my family.  But because of your donation, there will be less cancer families who will know this statement even exists.  You didn’t even know Madison, but I so wish you did.  She was beautiful, inside and out.  And when I say she loved everyone, I mean EVERYONE.  She welcomed everyone into her room, even when I wanted a break.  She made people happy, and unfortunately she will no longer be able to share that love with the world.  But thankfully, we can.  Because of what you have so selflessly done, the team has the money to begin the search.  They can now start finding an answer.  They can find a cure so that no other mom will never know the pain of losing a child.

Thank you.  Thank you for the donation, but for so much more.  Thank you for allowing me to share Madison with the rest of the world.  Thank you for being a part of something huge.  Thank you for being the team who kept Madison’s and the  ISF’s mission on course.   I can hear her saying, “Look mom, I got some more soldiers for my army!”  

With all my love, 

Laura, Madison’s Mommy

Isabella Santos Foundation Receives $250,000 Gift by The JEM Foundation

Dear JEM Project: Your donation is Giving Children Fighting Cancer Time