When California based stay at home mom, Fiona Marshall, got the devastating news that her daughter’s 6 year old friend had died from Cancer, she did what many would not think to do. Fiona teamed up with some likeminded people to bring awareness to a cause she found was now close to her heart. With a selection of child Cancer survivors, their parents and her JoinWondergirl team, Fiona dressed Child Cancer survivors up as Superheroes and together they started an awareness Campaign that’s currently taking the US by storm.
The parents of these kids are so inspiring and work really hard to bring awareness to a cause that is overlooked, not just in the US but around the world.
To have a better perspective on this project and how it’s cause affects us, you need to reflect on these few Cancer facts :
- Three in 10 children will lose their battle with the disease.
- Cancer is the number one killer disease in children
- 250,000+ new cases of cancer affect children under the age of 20 worldwide.
See how important this fight is? I had a chat with Fiona about the Wonder Girl project to mark Child Cancer Awareness month.
Amina: Who exactly is Fiona Marshall?
Fiona: I am a mother of two kids age 9 and 6. I am a pretty typical stay at home mom shuttling the kids around and helping with homework. However I have been touched by Childhood Cancer. At the age of 6 my daughter’s friend Jennifer was diagnosed with DIPG – a terminal upon diagnosis brain cancer. When she died , just 3.5 months after diagnosis it changed my life. So while my non-profit/event skills were a little rusty I jumped right in to help bring awareness to the cause. Little did I know I would meet so many other moms whose lives changed the day their child was diagnosed with cancer. One of those mom’s is Gabi, whose daughter is Wondergirl. Giselle was diagnosed at just 3 years old. The parents of these kids are so inspiring and work really hard to bring awareness to a cause that is overlooked, not just in the US but around the world. It was a pretty easy decision to jump in and help where ever I could.
Amina: You make it sound pretty casual but I suspect it’s quite a lot to jump into. I mean I have baby sat kids so I know that being a full time mom is no easy task. What sacrifices have you had to make to put this together?
Fiona: Personally – well I suppose quite a bit. Lots of late night meetings, phone calls, babysitting for kids (and even the dog) when we had a long day ahead of us, asking Tim (my husband) to come home early. Both Gabi and I also put our own money into the project. Other projects I had/have going on for sure took a backseat as well. It’s a hard balance being a stay-at-home mom sometimes juggling the things that you need to do and want to do with the kids, but also showing my kids that just because I don’t have a job doesn’t mean that I can’t work hard at something. Not to mention I hope my kids will learn about giving back to the community around them.
Amina: Wow! I see the need to give back to community and also to fight such a worthy cause. I am however impressed with how you’ve decided to create awareness around it. I just have to ask: What inspired the concept for this project?
Fiona: The project idea came about because of Giselle – who was named Wondergirl during treatment. After she finished her last dose of Chemo in Nov 2016 Gabi wanted to do a photo shoot of her as Wonder Woman. But why just do one kid when you can do many! So we started making a list of all the superheroes it would be fun to do (and of course there *may* be a movie coming out in November featuring a bunch of superheroes as well).
Amina: Movie sounds great. There is something about film that puts things in a more relatable manner. I for one got a better perspective on Autism when I watched the series, Parenthood so I really hope you guys push for the movie. So, our Wondergirl is Gisselle! Can you tell me a bit more about her and her experience?
Fiona: Giselle was 2 years old when she showed signs of being sick. After many trips to the doctor her mom, Gabi, didn’t listen to the doctor that told her it was just a virus and went for a second opinion at Stanford. Even though those doctors were fairly certain it was a virus as well they did run more tests. Sure enough she had leukaemia. The drugs that she took not only made her more sick but nearly killed her.
Sadly that does happen with many kids as the drugs for adults and kids are essentially the same but nothing is really the same between adults and kids. She pulled through and two years and 64 days later she took her last chemo pill. While she no longer has cancer, she now has major kidney issues due to the treatment. However the photo shoot brought a smile to her face! And all the other kids as well. It was really inspiring watching these kids knowing what they have or are going through.
Amina: That is truly sad to hear. I really do hope she gets better. How were the kids for this project selected and how long did it take you to do the shoot?
Fiona: Many of the kids came through Jacob’s Heart which is a non-profit in the Bay Area that helps provide services to families. When Join Wondergirl decided that any donations to this campaign would go to SACC (Superheroes Against Childhood Cancer – a nutrition and wellness program under Jacob’s Heart) it made sense to ask children already benefiting from the services if they would like to be a part of the campaign. A few kids did come from personal contacts as well when we wanted to highlight a specific cancer.
Amina: The video on this project was very impressive. Who are the people you have worked on this project and what skills have they put in to make it a success?
Fiona: Well this list is pretty long! Jenny Chen drew up our first mock-ups of the costumes. We have Camile Falciola and Jessie Pridemore. Both are amazing and award winning costume designers/makers in Los Angeles who made the majority of the costumes the kids wore. We have Marc Mascot (of Marc Mascot Photography) who did not only our photography and editing but also sculpted the costume for Cyborg. We had Noah Todd as our lead video guru and helper Nolan Raynor who are both finishing up their film degrees at university.
Amina: Such a Stellar team! And what impact do you hope to have first, on the children and then people in general with this project?
Fiona: The main goal of this project is to bring awareness to Childhood Cancer. Overall childhood cancer gets about 4% of the budget across the board which is just not enough to do any research.
Treatments that have stayed the same for almost 40 years, and designed for adults, are still being used to try and treat children which not only can kill them in the process but creates lifelong health issues. While there is no doubt that trying to cure adult cancer is a good thing as well perhaps, as my friend Libby would say… “if we can Unravel childhood cancer, it would help adult cancer as well.”
Amina: Is it possible for people to help out or be part of this?
Fiona: Absolutely!! There are lots of ways to help advocate for Childhood Cancer. For us we would hope that they Join Wondergirl and if they can donate that would be great as well. We have set-up a donation page specifically for this superhero campaign. The link is on the website as well or they can go directly to the donation page. Donations for this campaign will go to Superheroes Against Childhood Cancer. In September, for National Childhood Cancer Month, there are lots of activities to “Go Gold” to take part in as well. Amazon even went gold with their prime boxes this year which is a huge plus for the childhood cancer community. People can hold a lemonade stand with Alex’s Lemonade stand or Flutter with Unravel. All in all we all have the same goal. To bring awareness and funds to battle childhood cancer as the government does not.
Amina: Any final words?
Fiona: We really wanted to get as many cancer types as we could and bring awareness that kids can get so many different types of cancer. It doesn’t matter about how much money you have, or what your family background is, childhood cancer can attack any kid, for (at least at the moment) no apparent reason.
Amina: Thanks for speaking with me, Fiona!
Fiona: It’s been great. Thanks Amina.
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