The Butterfly Walk for CancerFree KIDS is an event that supports families battling cancer and raises money for CancerFree KIDS, a nonprofit organization that funds childhood cancer research. Cincinnati Parent spoke to Amy Paribello, Event Coordinator, about the role this event plays in the effort to eradicate childhood cancer.
Can you tell us why you created the Butterfly Walk for CancerFree KIDS?
My daughter Hannah was 2 1/2 years old when she was diagnosed with neuroblastoma. She pretty much lived at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital for about seven months until she lost her battle to cancer. Shortly after my daughter passed away I thought to myself, what am I going to do to make a difference? I met with the president of CancerFree KIDS and knew right away that her organization was the one I wanted to support. My husband and I created this event to raise funds for cancer research and show a fun time to pediatric cancer survivors.
When is the walk and who participates?
The event this year is on May 12th at Cottell Park in Deerfield Township. It’s a special year for us because this year we should be able to say that we have fundraised over a million dollars for cancer research since we began twelve years ago.
The community has really embraced the Butterfly Walk. There’s a core group of people that have come out year after year but there are always new people that hear about what a great event it is and come check it out. We have a timed 5K for those that want to race for the cause and we have a 1-mile inspirational walk. There’s also a whole bunch of fun and games. When you pay to register everything is included. There’s unlimited food supplied by Nathan’s Famous Hotdogs, pony rides, a DJ, games and an onstage magic show.
What happens to the money that is raised during the walk?
CancerFree KIDS does something that’s very unique. They fund pilot studies. In order to qualify for some of the big money that’s out there for research, scientists need to demonstrate some potential for success and they can’t do that without pilot studies. What CancerFree KIDS does is really important because they give the little ideas that seem promising some money to help show that their studies are a good idea and worth investing the big money into.
In addition to raising money, The Butterfly Walk also honors kids fighting cancer. Can you tell us more about that?
Each year we choose a pediatric cancer survivor to design the t-shirt for the event. This year a girl named Ava designed the t-shirts. It’s such an honor for these kids to create that special touch on the day of the event.
You know, being in the hospital is a very isolating experience. When I started the walk, I wanted to show the kids that are out of the hospital that they are really special and deserve to be honored. This walk was meant to be a big block party to celebrate their courage and their strength for going through such an epic battle.
A lot of people don’t talk about what goes on in the hospital because it’s too hard for people to hear, especially when it comes to kids. This was a way for me to allow the kids to come out of the shadows and say, it’s okay if you have a tube coming out of your nose, it’s okay if you don’t have hair or walk with a limp. You’re still special.