My name is Tracey Scheppach and all of this was my crazy idea.
As background, on January 1st 2013 I heard the words that no parent should ever have to hear, “Your son has cancer”. In an instant those four words changed my family’s life forever. My son, Ryan, was ultimately diagnosed, at the age of 7, with High Risk Pre-B ALL (Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia), a blood cancer that impacts about 2,900 children representing 35% of all types of childhood cancer. The #1 disease killer of our precious children. He has been exceedingly brave and over the last three years enduring over 1,722 admissions of 14 different types of chemotherapy, some of which were literally gallons of chemo. He endured 10 hospital admissions, each with an average of 4-night stays. So many trips to the ER I lost count. Three surgeries. Three bone marrow aspirations. Three anaphylaxis allergic reactions including one that landed us in the ICU. 30 spinal taps. Nineteen blood transfusions. Chemical meningitis and a relapse scare. That is the reality. It is simply so hard to watch your child go through such a brutal treatment plan. You feel so helpless and yet so grateful for all the parents, researchers, doctors, nurses and kids who have been fighting this battle before Ryan.
I needed an outlet…an outlet that allowed me to feel like I was making a difference and had some sort of control on a journey where there is little. So I decided to do something personally hard for me to honor the struggle that my son was facing. I formed a small team of four brave souls and we signed up to do the 2013 Chicago Triathlon. I am very proud to say well all finished and raised $50,000. Great start.
All of our fundraising went to the cutting edge of pediatric cancer research, including immunotherapy. You see today’s pediatric plan for boys is three and half years long, chemo based and brutal but does work for over 80% of the kids like Ryan. It however, it does not work for everyone and leaves 2/3 of the children that survive with life threatening side effects.
We have to do better and the future for these kids likely lies with immunotherapy, re-training your own body to beat back the cancer. In fact, many advance in the treatment of all sorts of cancers start with advancements in blood cancer and particularly the children. Emily Whitehead was the very first child to receive immunotherapy to beat her cancer.
She remains healthy four years later and has become the beacon of hope for so many parents like myself. She is somewhat of celebrity appearing in many TV specials like 60 Minutes and Vice, getting to meet the President in the White House and now even Joe Biden to be a part of the new Moon Shot Program to accelerate a cure for all types of cancer.
She is our way forward and I feel honored to lead a team to raise funds to make progress in treatment happen.
Team Bright Side
In 2014 I asked my husband, Ray, and a few more friends, and we grew to a team of eight including my friend Maria, whose son has also battled Leukemia. A motley, but motivated crew. We raised $60,000. Momentum building.
In 2015 I started to reach out to my industry and our amazing employee population, many of whom it was their first triathlon, and who had been personally impacted by cancer. We had over 42 people and everyone successfully completed the event!
I think I am even more proud to say that in 2015 we formed the first ever kids team that fundraising for the Kids Triathlon. The kids group was anchored by Ryan, who still had another nine months of chemo to go, and his little brother, Sean. We raised over $190,000. Momentum really building.
In 2016 we encouraged everyone to bring a friend and the team grew to 77 people with a 100% completion rate and we raised over $280,000. Epic here we come.
We call ourselves “Team Bright Side”. The name of the team came from one of the most valuable lessons my son has taught me. Ryan has faced a lot of hard times conquering his chemo treatment plan, but through all the challenges he has faced he always says, “the good thing is”. Even in some very dark moments Ryan can somehow always finds the bright side. So with his spirit in mind our team was formed and the momentum builds. I know 2017 is going to be nothing shy of EPIC but we need your help to make it happen.
Together we are making a dent in the universe. Together we are truly saving lives.
Thank you for your support!