kindness activist

kindness activist

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Reading Time Kindness

We went to a party at our friends’ house in the summer of 2011.  I am not a great “party person” – I typically feel a bit overwhelmed and unsure where to stand, who to talk to, how to “fit in” at events like that.  But at this particular party, I found a pal.  Her name was Mila.  The funny thing was, Mila and I couldn’t really communicate with one another.  She was 2 years old and didn’t speak much ENGLISH, and I was 45 years old and spoke NO Russian…  But we smiled a lot at each other, and skipped a bit, and ended up snuggling on the sofa looking page by page through a coffee table book of “Doors of Paris”.  J  We didn’t any words to turn the big pages and admire the photographs.  It was lovely.
I became Facebook friends with her mom, Erica, after that party and have enjoyed following their family adventures through FB.  We run into them every once in a while at plays or at parties at the same mutual friends’ house where we met.  Her mom recently posted photos of a VERY KIND thing they did, so I asked if she would share it with me for the blog and she was happy to.  I know that Mila and Erica will inspire you.  Here is their story:
“September is Children’s Cancer Awareness Month.  We have a personal connection to children’s cancer, since my daughter Mila was treated for a rhabdoid tumor at Children’s National Medical Center (CNMC) in Washington DC and continues to go there yearly for long term care.  (NOTE:  Please see the end of this piece to learn more about Mila’s story.)

Mila when she was a baby at CNMC
My friend Amanda Ellithorpe works for Usborne Books.  Usborne will match dollars raised in BOOKS, so when Amanda asked if I wanted to partner on an initiative to raise awareness for children’s cancer and provide new Usborne books to cancer patients at Children’s National Medical Center, I was immediately interested. 

I am eternally grateful for the care Mila received at CNMC and I am happy to do anything to give back to them and their patients. I knew from our time spent there how fantastic the hospital is, and continues to be, including services like free books and other resources and gifts for patients and their families. 
Mila and Big Sister Fiona

Amanda and I know each other from when we both worked at the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra.  She lives in upstate NY now but we keep in touch over Facebook.  It felt so great to put the fundraiser up on Facebook and see the support begin!  We exceeded our goal of raising $1000 and raised over $1500 instead.  Mila had a great time selecting the books online for the donation.  

Donating the books!

As a result of that fundraising, 6 boxes of brand new Usborne books for kids of all ages and interest were donated to CNMC.  When we made the delivery to the hospital Mila was very personable with the staff (what else is new?!).  She isn’t afraid to tell people she was sick. I think it’s important for her to be aware of her medical history and keep the dialogue open and positive about her and our experience, and this project fueled that.
I can say first hand as a CNMC parent that it feels amazing to receive the kindness offered from not only the staff of the hospital, but from all of the programs that they offer, like this one, they have developed for patient services.  I will absolutely do a project like this one again. Who doesn’t want to duplicate kindness?  It feels fantastic.”
Erica's family - aren't they lovely?  You can see the kindness radiating.  :)
Isn’t that an amazing way to spread kindness??  Mila got to help give back to the very place that has been so important to her and her family.  Erica was kind enough to also share with me Mila’s treatment story, which is inspiring.  When I see the photos of Mila break dancing today it is hard to believe all she went through when she was a baby.  Here is her treatment story, as told by her mother:
“Mila is a survivor. On Memorial Day weekend 2009 we noticed a small lump on Mila's right shoulder. She was 4 months old. Within 4 weeks it had grown to the size of an egg. It was surgically removed on June 19 and we were told the tumor was malignant. The pathology results on the tumor cells indicated they were missing part of chromosome 22, known to cause a rhabdoid tumor, a rare form of children’s cancer. There are about 15 cases each year diagnosed nationally.
Tiny Mila exploring the halls of CNMC
The results of treatment were very uncertain because of the lack of statistically significant research on the type of cancer due to its rarity. From July 2009-January 2010 Mila receive 8 rounds of chemotherapy to eradicate the disease. She finished her treatments right before her 1st birthday. She received almost 100 scans to ensure the cancer hadn’t formed in other locations in her body. She was under the care of Jeffrey Dome, Chief Oncologist at Children's National Medical Center. Dr. Dome is a research specialist in pediatric solid tumors of the kidney, of which rhabdoid tumors is one. He was also Chair of the Children’s Oncology Group study for rhabdoid tumor - an international study that 200 children’s hospitals participate in.
We were lucky enough to have a facility like Children’s National Medical Center nearby in D.C. AND an oncologist on staff there who happened to be one of the national experts on Mila’s type of cancer. Lucky isn’t even a big enough word to describe it. In the weeks we spent on the 4th floor of the hospital, meeting other families whose children were in its care, we realized that some were traveling hundreds of miles each month to bring their kids to Children’s.
Mila officially RINGING THE BELL!!
Mighty Mila - a SURVIVOR
Mila has been cancer-free for more than 5 years now. In January of 2015 she ‘rang the bell’ at Children’s. She will continue to be in the care of doctors for aftereffects of the chemotherapy drugs, but you would never know in looking at her that she lived through cancer. She break dances, plays soccer, tortures her cat Tigger and studies French and Russian. She and her big sister Fiona are each other’s best friends – most of the time!
And she reminds us all every day that there is hope.”
Mila - now age 7 and cancer free
Thanks for sharing Mila’s story, Erica.  And thank you and Amanda for doing such a kind act for CNMC.  I am betting there is some little kid giggling while reading “Captain Underpants” at this very moment because of you.
To learn more about Children's National Medical Center, see this link
To learn more about Usborne books, see Amanda's site at this link
Do YOU know of a KINDNESS ACTIVIST that I can spotlight?  Kindness activism doesn’t have to be a big, grand gesture – kindness comes in all shapes and sizes.  If you have seen, received, or given kindness, please take a moment to tell me about it.  Send me details at: .  Kindness SHARED inspires kindness.


  1. I just came across this story from the Asheville newspaper, the Citizen-Times, and thought you'd enjoy it:

    1. That is GREAT!! Thanks so much for sharing it Rakewell. I would love to talk to someone who received a gift from Mr. McClung, or Mr. McClung himself! He truly is a Kindness Activist!