Natalie Grace Gorsegner has just completed an unbelievable third year in her young life. She was diagnosed with high-risk Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL) on August 16, 2012 – just one month and 12 days before her third birthday. What should have been a year filled with a birthday celebration, trips to the park, romping with friends during play dates, and vacationing with her family, turned into hospital/clinic visits, chemotherapy treatments, and the family’s realization that their entire world would be forever changed.
Andrea and her husband Dan did not know much about ALL but were determined to find out more. “I saw The Truth 365 documentary, learned all the facts, and then researched more on my own. The documentary opened my eyes,” said Andrea. In researching pediatric cancer, she learned that it was the leading cause of death by disease in children and adolescents in the United States; that the National Cancer Institute only allocates 4% of its funding to pediatric research; and that in 20 years the FDA has initially approved only one drug for any childhood cancer.
Fundraising for research seemed the best way to go. Andrea reached out to Dena Sherwood, the founder of Arms Wide Open/The Truth 365, and discovered that with their foundation, 100% of funds goes to research. “Right then and there I decided that I needed to start my own fundraiser as well. That’s when I came up with the idea of renting a post office box and having Natalie and I hold up a sign asking her Facebook followers to simply send a dollar for research plus to help spread the word,” said Andrea. Natalie’s wish was to raise $50,000 by her fourth birthday on September 28, 2013. “Between the post office box and the online donation site, we did it! We have raised $85,000!” reported an ecstatic Andrea. That was the amount a week before Natalie’s birthday, with donations still coming in. “If I had to guess, I’d say that we’ll likely be in the $90,000 range when all is said and done,” she said.
Andrea said the family plans on keeping the donation page open, and the post office box address, as they will be holding their fundraiser again next year. Any donations received now will be held to jump start next year’s goal. “The next dollar fundraiser will begin on April 1, 2014 and end on Natalie’s birthday, September 28 of that year. This time we are looking to raise $100,000!” shared Andrea. The fundraiser helped the Gorsegner’s feel they had a little bit of control against the cancer. She noted that the money raised will fund a clinical trial which in turn will give children with cancer a less painful treatment option, and perhaps even save a child’s life. “That is my way of kicking cancer to the curb, so it’s been an empowering experience. My Natalie, and these kids are NOT alone, we’re fighting right alongside of them.”
Andrea and Dan Gorsegner and their daughters Hannah and Natalie Grace regularly spend quality family time together. Dan is co-owner of the family flooring business Gorsegner Brothers Hardwood Floors. His father is Middletown Fire Chief John Gorsegner. Andrea was photo editor at Women’s Health Magazine but needed to take a leave of absence to care for Natalie following her diagnosis. Natalie’s older sister, six-year-old Hannah, has had to adjust to a lot of changes in the family’s day-to-day life during this past year. Yet, Andrea said, “Natalie’s diagnosis brought us closer together as a family. As cliché as it might sound, when something this scary happens to your child, it puts life in perspective BIG TIME!” She emphasized that now, “The big picture is crystal clear, and that picture is family and love.”
As for finding the right words to say or how to help a family who has just learned their child has cancer, Andrea offered these suggestions. Don’t ask if you can help, simply act on your offer to help by starting a gas card drive to help with the travel expense to and from the hospital. Or start a grocery card drive. Set up a fundraising page for them and enlist the help of their friends, family, the community, even their children’s school. It only takes a few minutes on a site such as http://www.donationto.com. Organize a food train which will make sure the family always has a hot meal; visit http://www.mealtrain.com. “One last simple thing you can do is support them! If they share something on their Facebook page, be a voice, share it too. Like their posts, tell your friends as well and help raise awareness. Don’t just sit back and feel sorry for them. Drop them a note from time to time. Even if you have no idea what to say simply say that you are thinking of them every day.” To other parents who have a child with pediatric cancer, Andrea hopes they will share their story as a means by which to educate others. “Allow people to help you because you are going to need it. And, never let go of hope, as all children’s cancers are different.”
Natalie Grace Gorsegner is now in the maintenance phase of her treatment and is expected to be cancer-free in November of 2014.
Visit www.willyousendusadollar.com for further information. Donations are still being accepted on Natalie’s Facebook page at Infinite Love for Natalie Grace; or make a check payable to Arms Wide Open/The Truth 365, P.O.Box 4064, Middletown, New Jersey 07748; c/o Andrea Gorsegner of Infinite Love for Natalie Grace. For information on The Truth 365 and their Dream Team of Oncologists, visit www.thetruth365.org or view the documentary at www.facebook.com/thetruth365film.