Co-Founder, James A. Ragan, Featured in People Magazine

James A. Ragan featured in People

“At 13, James Ragan was an affable, lanky, top-ranked junior tennis player in Texas, competing in Europe for the summer and dreaming of life as a pro. A sudden swelling in his left knee caused concern, but James never imagined what would soon unfold.

Doctors discovered he had osteosarcoma – a rare and often fatal form of bone cancer.

The aggressive cancer spread to his lungs and continued to return on an almost annual basis. With six painful surgeries in seven years, surgeons would no sooner cut the tumors from his lungs when they’d return. Once it metastasizes, there is no cure.

James died at 20 years old, but he embraced every minute he had on earth while doing what he could to help eradicate the disease.

Inspiring College Student with Incurable Cancer Raised Millions for Research: 'The Closer You Get to Death, the More You Want to Live'| Cancer, Good Deeds, Real People Stories, Real Heroes

The Ragan family. From left: Jim, Mecklin, James and Gloria

COURTESY RAGAN FAMILY

But once cancer struck, he said, “I always go out of my way to find someone to help.”

James hoped the film, Until 20, would not only increase awareness of rare pediatric cancers and help increase funding to find a cure, he also wanted to help viewers learn from his short but full life about what truly matters.

“Genuinely, he wanted to help other kids with cancer,” Moriba tells PEOPLE.

His father, Jim Ragan, an attorney, admits watching the film “causes some deeply mixed emotions.”

Inspiring College Student with Incurable Cancer Raised Millions for Research: 'The Closer You Get to Death, the More You Want to Live'| Cancer, Good Deeds, Real People Stories, Real Heroes

James and his father, Jim

COURTESY RAGAN FAMILY

“You can be thankful you had 20 extraordinary years or you can be angry you didn’t get 40 years,” he continues. “That seems to be a fairly easy choice to make.”

James was diagnosed with osteosarcoma in his left leg the summer between seventh and eighth grade. He underwent chemotherapy and surgery, and doctors told him he was cancer free. But five months after his treatment ended – at the start of his freshman year of high school – James found out the cancer had returned, with tumors growing in his lungs. That’s when he learned he had metastatic osteosarcoma.

“It was difficult at first. It’s a lot for a 13-year-old child when you lose so much,” Jim shares. “Your physical appearance is altered, you lose so many things physically – tennis – it was difficult.”

But thanks to his spirited personality and the tremendous support of his family, which includes his devoted mother, Gloria, and younger sister, Mecklin, now a medical student, James learned a meaningful, happy way to live.

Inspiring College Student with Incurable Cancer Raised Millions for Research: 'The Closer You Get to Death, the More You Want to Live'| Cancer, Good Deeds, Real People Stories, Real Heroes

James and his mother, Gloria

COURTESY UNTIL20.COM

“He said, ‘I lost yesterday, something bad may happen tomorrow, but if I sit here and worry about those two things I am going to lose today too.’ It was an approach that made sense to him.”

Despite surgeries and chemotherapy that left him in tremendous pain, James took up golf, and became so good that he earned a spot on the Division I team at Rice University.

Inspiring College Student with Incurable Cancer Raised Millions for Research: 'The Closer You Get to Death, the More You Want to Live'| Cancer, Good Deeds, Real People Stories, Real Heroes

James

COURTESY RAGAN FAMILY

The film also shows the joy of James falling in love with a fellow Rice student, and the heartbreak of receiving the news that tumors had grown around his heart just days after his first date.

“When we got the news in January that it was over, it was a shock to us,” Jim says.

James left school and returned home to Corpus Christi, and spent his precious time surrounded by an endless stream of family and friends. He also spent countless hours texting his newfound love.

“The closer you get to death,” he says in the film, “the more you want to live.”

A week before his death, Moriba filmed her final scenes with James.

“The last interview, he said, ‘This is the room I am going to die in’ and he said, ‘I had 1,000 days more than the average kid with osteosarcoma,’ and he shrugs his shoulders and smiles,” Moriba recalls.

“And I am on the other side of the camera and weeping and I say, ‘How can you be so calm and casual about that?’ And he said he was at peace with his life and that he lived a really good life.””

The 5 Contributions of DoThatOneThing! to Pediatric Cancer Research

The 5 Contributions of DoThatOneThing!

Pediatric cancer patients and their families face a procession of difficult challenges, even beyond the disease itself. Families are often split, with one parent at home and the other traveling to treatment with the affected child. The treatments are often painful, frightening and ultimately unsuccessful. The financial toll can be crushing, and siblings can feel lost as attention is focused on the child with cancer. Even aside from the constant specter of death, it is a life you wouldn’t wish on anyone else.

What can we do to help these families, or to help anyone less fortunate than we are? We can pick something, whatever we choose to do, and Do That One Thing. That’s what James Ragan told us before he died of cancer, during his salutatory address at his high school graduation – “I can promise you, you will be stronger, more energetic, more positive and happier throughout your life if you do that one thing.”

Today, James’s words have been transformed into action. The DoThatOneThing Councils of Triumph Over Kid Cancer Foundation (TOKC), the organization he and his sister, Mecklin, formed to improve and lengthen the lives of children with cancer and their families, work with high school and college students to spread awareness for pediatric cancer and bring joy into the lives of pediatric cancer patients and their families.

Here are 5 ways DoThatOneThing! Council is helping achieve that mission:

1.) Establishing Chapters In Our Communities

The DoThatOneThing! Council has recruited principals, teachers, and students across our communities to establish chapters in their schools to raise awareness for pediatric cancer and to bring joy to the daily lives of children with cancer. Now in high schools, middle schools, and one college with plans to expand to others, DoThatOneThing! is taking off.

2) Bringing Joy to Pediatric Cancer Families

DoThatOneThing! Councils, run by student volunteers and their faculty advisors, have organized a number of events to spread cheer to affected families. These events occur monthly at Driscoll Children’s Hospital, MD Anderson, Texas Children’s Hospital, and the Ronald McDonald House, and include decorating patients’ hospital rooms for holidays, delivering goodie baskets, creating arts and crafts, donating books and reading to children with cancer. The DoThatOneThing! Council members even organize a Thanksgiving dinner at Driscoll Children’s Hospital. Educating the Next Generation DoThatOneThing! Councils take the time to learn about childhood cancer and the struggles faced by children and their families. For example, parents of children with cancer speak to students about first hearing the words, “your child has cancer,” and how they deal with the journey ahead. Spreading Awareness of Childhood Cancer As students learn more about pediatric cancer and understand its impact on children and their families, they share what they have learned with their peers and classmates, further spreading awareness for pediatric cancer. Chapters have done this in a variety of ways, such as distributing buttons with facts about pediatric cancer on them, or designing and distributing t-shirts with creative logos. “Students taking an interest and coming up with their own ideas – that’s what is helping TOKC to grow and educate a new generation. Increased awareness can lead to early diagnoses, which are a key to increasing survival rates,” says Gloria Ragan, mother of James Ragan and one of the driving forces behind Triumph Over Kid Cancer.

3.) Developing Organizational Skills for the Ongoing Effort

Through their participation in the DoThatOneThing! Council, high school students also learn about non-profit work, how to organize and run group meetings, how to actively listen, and speak publicly. By learning these skills, today’s students are becoming better equipped to make an even bigger impact in the future on their communities and in the fight against pediatric cancer. You can help Triumph Over Kid Cancer win the war against childhood cancers and save the lives of millions of children alive today and those yet to be born.

Visit TriumphOverKidCancer.org for more information or to make a donation.

5 Realities of Childhood Cancer We Often Overlook

5 Realities of Childhood Cancer We Often

Cancer is not just a health diagnoses; it’s a life diagnosis, and not only for the child who receives it, but for the whole family. We think of children dying of cancer, and that makes sense: it’s the second leading cause of death in children after accidents. But children live with cancer first — a life of challenges, of physical and emotional pain, and of an immense family upheaval as the stricken child’s life becomes the focus of family life.

Triumph Over Kid Cancer (TOKC), an organization that raises money to investigate new therapies for childhood cancer based here in Corpus Christi, asks us all to consider some realities of childhood cancer when we think about the 10,000 children under the age of 15 who are diagnosed each year.

“We spend so much time celebrating the triumphs we sometimes forget that kids have to fight against cancer day in and day out,” says Gloria Ragan, whose son James founded TOKC and inspired its supporters before his own death in 2014.

  1. The Daily Physical Pain

Children with cancer face a gauntlet of physical pain involving injections, radiation and chemotherapy — another way of saying burning and poisoning — the pressure of tumors on nerves and the cancer itself. They have to deal with these issues on top of the usual challenges of growing up whether they are young children attempting to learn about the world or teenagers navigating the minefield of puberty and young adulthood.

  1. The Emotional Pain and Social Ostracism

Children with cancer live with the daily prospect of a flare-up, a setback, another hospitalization and even death. One in five children diagnosed with cancer will die of it. It’s a lot for anyone to cope with, much less a child of any age. As the progress of the cancer ebbs and flows, children with cancer are usually sidelined from some activities that their friends enjoy — particularly sports. They may also miss large chunks of school time that sets them apart from their peers and even when they return, they must attempt to catch up weeks or months of work. Nothing is worse for children, especially in middle and high school, than to be different in a way that everyone can see.

  1. The Unfortunate Choices

Children with cancer have to choose between things no child should have to do. Should they go to school the day they have chemotherapy? Should they complete their homework when they are vomiting and suffering headaches? Should they go out with their friends even if there won’t be a bathroom nearby? Should they attempt to date? They make the ordinary emotional trauma of adolescence seem trivial.

  1. The Financial Strain

Families that care for children with cancer incur incredible costs during the diagnostic, treatment and follow-up. Besides the health care costs themselves, which insurance almost never covers entirely, parents often must travel with children to treatment, take time off from work and even give up employment. As many as 30% of children with cancer live over 60 miles from the nearest oncologist. The financial burden exacerbates the physical and emotional issues challenging the family.

  1. The Emotional Turbulence

Everyone in the childhood cancer community knows of parents who cracked under the emotional pain of a child with cancer, of parents who struggled with alcoholism, psychological issues and divorce from the strain. It even affects siblings because parental attention can become diverted to the sick child.

You can help Triumph Over Kid Cancer win the war against childhood cancers and save the lives of millions of children alive today and those yet to be born. Visit TriumphOverKidCancer.org for more information or to make a donation.

Q & A with Mecklin Ragan

Co-Founder of Triumph Over Kid Cancer

We’d love to learn more about you? What do you do? What are some of your passions/interests?

I’m currently in my 4th year of medical school at UT Health San Antonio, applying to residency in General Surgery. I hope to have the opportunity to go into surgical oncology, but for now I’m taking things one day at a time. Outside of school, I enjoy spending time with my family and friends, playing with our family dogs, running, watching classic movies, reading, and playing the piano. And, as one might expect, I’m very passionate about helping kids with cancer and their families, and pediatric cancer related issues.

Who or what has been your biggest source of inspiration in life?

The biggest source of inspiration in my life has been, and continues to be, my brother, James. I can remember times when James was absolutely miserable – he was sick and sad and had no idea what the future held. In spite of all of the challenges James faced, he got up, he smiled, said something funny or nice and began to do something positive with his day. Some days he did school work, and when he graduated he was the salutatorian. Some days he worked to become a better golfer so that when he got to college, he could play Division I golf for the Rice Owls. But most days he worked at cancer. And James’ unrelenting ability to think of other kids like him and families like ours and new ways he could do his one thing to help them is what continues to inspire not just me, but my fellow TOKC Board Members and our supporters as well.

And while James has been the biggest source of inspiration in my life, I can’t talk about what or who inspires me without including my parents, Gloria and Jim. It has been said that the greatest loss one can experience is that of a parent losing a child, and even though as individuals, as parents, and as husband and wife they have been through some extraordinarily difficult times, they continue to be an amazing team and to love and support one another. They help to pick each other up, and me, when any of us falls. They continue to encourage me to work hard to be the best physician and person I can be and to pursue my dreams, wherever that may take me. And even though they lost their son, they continue to do their one thing each day to honor James’ memory and to help kids with cancer and their families navigate the complex and overwhelming roller-coaster that is cancer. They are the living example of the kind of person I want to be.

We know that the Triumph over Kid Cancer Foundation is close to your heart. Please tell us a little about the organization. (How did it begin? How does it help kids with cancer/cancer research?)

Although TOKC was officially founded in 2010, the idea originated in 2007 just a year after James was diagnosed with Osteosarcoma. He had completed several rounds of chemotherapy, had undergone a total knee replacement, and was about to turn 14. To celebrate we hosted a Toga Party for his 14th birthday and, in lieu of gifts, guests were asked to make donations which would be split between MD Anderson and Driscoll Children’s Hospital (our local children’s hospital in Corpus Christi). That year, we raised $40,000! At that point in time, everyone thought James was cured. Unfortunately, a few months after that first Toga Party, we learned that the cancer had metastasized to his lungs. In researching his disease, we learned that there was no cure for it, and there was no real effort to find a cure. By the time James’ birthday rolled around the following year, he had become quite the golfer, so we decided to have the Toga party once again, but this time also added a golf tournament to round out the weekend’s festivities. all of the money raised went directly to cancer research.

In the years that followed, we held annual fundraisers to raise money for cancer research, but we quickly realized that if we could find a way to formalize our efforts, we would have a greater impact with the funds we were raising. So, in 2010, we organized a non-profit called Triumph Over Kid Cancer Foundation (TOKC) and began funding the Children’s Sarcoma initiative at M.D. Anderson Children’s Cancer Hospital. TOKC committed to raise 1.5 million dollars, to be matched by M.D. Anderson Children’s Cancer Hospital, and the money would create a fund, which would award grants to support new research into pediatric bone cancer. We met that goal at the end of 2013, about 1 month before James’ death.

TOKC has continued to  raise funds that go directly towards projects dedicated to finding cures for pediatric cancer.

  • In 2017, we completed our $1.5 million dollar pledge towards Pediatric Genome Research, with those funds also being matched by M.D. Anderson.

  • In 2018, we embarked on two new projects. The first is a Phase II drug trial at MD Anderson, focused on a drug that holds great promise to treat patients with osteosarcoma with lung metastasis – the very disease that took James’ life.

  • The second is a promising childhood cancer cell immunotherapy research project at Texas Children’s Hospital involving modifying children’s T cells to help their own systems do a better job of fighting their cancer.

James’ vision was a world without children’s cancer, and I and the rest of the TOKC board members, remain determined to make that vision a reality. But James also recognized that while supporting research gives kids with cancer and their families hope for a better future, there is another big piece in this puzzle – finding ways to bring some joy to the daily lives of kids with cancer. And TOKC does this with the help of our countless volunteers and the members of our #DoThatOneThing Councils, a high school program that encourages teens to become more involved in their communities and teaches them about non-profit work. Now in 10 high schools in the Coastal Bend, hundreds of high schools students from all over promote pediatric cancer awareness and help organize activities to brighten the lives of kids with cancer and their families.

 

What words of encouragement or advice would you give to other women dreaming of entering the medical field or pursuing their passions?

There’s a quote from James in the documentary “Until 20” that was made about the last year of his life and pediatric cancer where he relates his life to the game of golf that I just love.

“It hasn’t always been fairways and greens. It’s been a little bit of army golf, as we call it, which is left, right, left, right – balls going everywhere and lots of trouble – but that doesn’t mean that you give up or you try to play the game any differently. You just try figure the best way to deal with it and you go forward and you swing hard to try to get it out of the trees. You have to keep moving forward and focusing on the next shot in front of you.”

Life, whether you’re entering the medical field or pursuing any other passion you have, is full of ups and downs for everyone, not including the extra obstacles we face as women pursuing those goals. But, like James said, just because you get knocked down or hit a rough patch doesn’t mean you play the game any differently. You have to get back up, figure out the best way to deal with the adversity you are facing, and move forward because while the challenges we face in our lives may shape the people we become, they do not define us. What defines each of us is how we respond to those challenges, and I believe that if you are able to stay grounded, humble, and hungry, you can accomplish anything you set your mind to.

“2019 Spotlights | Women Empowerment | Inspiring Women Today.” InspiringWomen.Today, 20 Feb. 2019, www.inspiringwomen.today/copy-of-new-spotlights.

Punting For Change: Thomas Morstead

Saints Punter Tackles Charity

Being a punter can be a lonely endeavor. 

Despite having 10 additional teammates on the field snapping, blocking, and covering the opposition’s returner, the punter is the focal point of the play. Located several yards behind the long snapper, alone on a football island, the punter analyzes the elements and the coverage team, deciding where to strategically place the punt to maximize his team’s success and avoid disaster.

Punting is a craft that lends itself to an introvert and requires the dedication to spend hours punting footballs, perfecting the spiral and placement of the ball, often alone.

That’s what initially drew New Orleans Saints punter Thomas Morstead to begin pursuing punting as a teenager. Punting a soccer ball was ingrained in Morstead at a young age, from his days of playing goalie, and when he excelled in a Punt, Pass, and Kick competition in middle school, he discovered his knack for punting a football.

“Some people love hitting balls on the golf range, and I remember what it felt like to kick a punt that spiraled and how good of a feeling it was,” Morstead says. “I always was the type of kid who didn’t need someone to play with. I could go shoot free throws for hours. I could go punt footballs for hours by myself, and naturally, being an introvert, it suited me.”

All those hours paid off, as Morstead, in his 10th year with the Saints, has become an integral player in the franchise and a beloved member of the New Orleans community. The former Pro Bowler etched himself into Saints and NFL lore with his famous onside kick to start the second half of Super Bowl XLIV in 2010.

Saints coach Sean Payton alerted Morstead at the beginning of halftime that the team would be running the surprise play, dubbed “Ambush,” giving the rookie a half hour to dwell on the impending gutsy call. “My blood pressure and heart rate spiked when he told me,” Morstead recalls. “We worked on it, but I’m not sure I ever thought we’d actually do it as a surprise in a game.”

In one of the most pressure-packed situations in all of sports, Morstead lined up to begin the second half and delivered. The kick caught the Indianapolis Colts off-guard, allowing the Saints to recover and take their first lead of the game on the ensuing drive. “I’m certainly glad we did it,” Morstead says. “It helped us win a Super Bowl. I don’t really remember the kick itself—I’ve seen it on TV about a hundred times, but I honestly kind of blacked out when it happened.”

Winning the Super Bowl is the perfect way to end any NFL season, let alone one’s rookie campaign. Morstead is one of the few remaining players from the franchise’s lone Super Bowl victory, and he has weathered the peaks and valleys of the subsequent seasons, which makes the current winning resurgence over the past two seasons even sweeter.

The winning is a product of one of the core values of the Saints: getting the right people in the building. It’s been a process, Morstead says, but during three straight 7-9 seasons, the Saints stuck to their values and principles while building a new team foundation, trusting a process that has ultimately proved successful.

After experiencing so much team success early in his career, Morstead is excited that the winning culture has come full-circle. Even though many fans and pundits are quick to compare this year’s squad to past successful Saints teams, Morstead points out that every single team has been uniquely different from the others. “There is definitely a special energy and an ‘it’ factor that I feel like this team has,” Morstead says. “Honestly, we had it last year as well, and it’s been a lot of fun.”

This season, the Saints offense has been roaring, scoring at a higher clip than nearly every team in the league. More offensive touchdowns equate to less punting for Morstead, who averaged over 58 punts per season his first nine years. Through 12 games this season, the Saints have punted only 28 times, the fewest in the NFL. With a lack of punting game-to-game, Morstead says he actually stays more engaged than usual.

“It’s counterintuitive—the more I punt, the less I do,” Morstead explains. “Part of that is, when you go into the game, the adrenaline you experience for one play can sit in your system for a while. So, I don’t have to do too much activity on the sidelines when I’m punting more.” Morstead needed all the adrenaline he could muster last year against the Minnesota Vikings in the NFC Divisional Playoffs.

On his first punt of the game, Morstead made a touchdown-saving tackle on Vikings return man Marcus Sherels, suffering a painful rib injury in the process. Battling through the pain, Morstead stayed in the game, launching three more successful punts. “Most guys have an opportunity to gut it out for their teammates throughout the season, and that was a rare opportunity for me to gut it out for my teammates,” Morstead says. “It was an honor to do it.”

Vikings fans responded to Morstead’s gritty performance by donating over $220,000 to his charitable foundation, What You Give Will Grow. Overwhelmed by the generosity of the Vikings fans, Morstead turned right around and donated all the proceeds to Children’s Hospitals Minnesota for its Child Life program. That donation last winter was a highlight in a long line of philanthropic endeavors by Morstead’s foundation, which emphasizes helping children battling cancer.

Inspired by his friend James Ragan, who battled osteosarcoma, Morstead and his wife Lauren started WYGWG in 2014 to help the New Orleans community and encourage the giving spirit.

“James’s fight, his attitude, and his mentality in dealing with it and helping others who were going through the same thing were really inspiring, and it’s a way to keep his legacy and memory alive through the foundation,” Morstead says.

The name of the organization comes from a quote by Frank Gansz, Morstead’s mentor and special teams coach at Southern Methodist: “What you give will grow. What you keep, you lose.” Gansz passed away in 2009, the day after Morstead was drafted by the Saints, but the impact Gansz had on Morstead’s life propelled him to found WYGWG to continue to give back and help others. Since its inception, WYGWG has raised over $3.5 million for charitable causes with the help of an army of dedicated volunteers.

“I can’t believe we are at where we’re at,” Morstead says. “It’s been really fun to have the ability to be impactful in our community, which supports the team so much. I love being able to give back and positively impact the lives of the fans who cheer for us every week.”

Morstead encourages anyone interested in donating money or time to visit WYGWG.org to get plugged in and contribute to the positive impact the foundation is having on the community.

“Everybody that is involved feels they’re making an impact, and their small piece really does matter,” Morstead says. “It’s a really cool community of volunteers and support that we have, and it’s been a lot of fun. Hopefully, we can continue to do more and more in the future.”


Photos by Romney Caruso

Alexander, Andrew. “Where Y’at.” Festival Food & Beverages Offered at French Quarter Fest | Where Y’at, 21 Dec. 2018, www.whereyat.com/punting-for-change-saints-punter-morstead-tackles-charity-and-sometimes-return-men.

4 Ways Gloria Hicks Has Sparked Pediatric Cancer Research Funding

4 Ways Gloria Hicks Has Sparked Funding

You may know Triumph Over Kid Cancer (TOKC) as the Corpus Christi-based non-profit inspired by the life of James Ragan that has raised over $3 million for pediatric cancer research.

Diagnosed with cancer at 13, James celebrated his 14th birthday with a Toga party at which guests were invited to donate money instead of buying presents. He raised 40,000 dollars that day, which began his efforts to fund innovative new treatments for childhood cancers, which hardly receive any government or pharmaceutical industry funding at all. That began the work of Triumph Over Kid Cancer.

Sadly, we lost James in 2014 at age 20, but other passionate supporters of the cause have carried on his work. One of organization’s leading benefactors has been Gloria Hicks, owner with her husband of Ed Hicks Family of Dealerships, Corpus Christi’s home for Mercedes-Benz, Nissan and Infiniti.

Gloria Hicks got to know James even before his diagnosis in 2006 when her son Charlie became his golfing buddy. Since TOKC began, Gloria has given her heart, her time and her treasure to support its critical work.

Here are just a few of Gloria Hicks’ contributions.

  1. The Mercedes Benz Golf Tournament

A major fundraiser annually for Triumph Over Kid Cancer, the golf tournament is also a place at which TOKC is given the opportunity to reach out to those who might not know about its efforts in the field of pediatric cancer research. Gloria Hicks has designated Triumph Over Kid Cancer the official beneficiary of the event every year.

  1. New Dealerships, New Platform

The Ed Hicks Family of Dealerships has invited TOKC volunteers to the opening of every new dealership, allowing them to expand awareness and support for James’s vision. When a prominent family business gets behind a cause the way Gloria Hicks and her family does, it attracts many of the community’s leading citizens.

  1. Engaging Her Connections

Gloria Hicks served as an irreplaceable volunteer at fundraiser auctions. She leveraged her deep connections in the community to convince area businesses and individuals to donate incredible auction items. Much of the success of those auctions, which have raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for pediatric cancer research, is attributable to Gloria’s tireless work, dedication and talent for motivating people.

  1. Offering a Mercedes-Benz

In order to drive participation in our annual James A. Ragan Triumph Scramble golf tournament, Gloria Hicks’s company donates a hole-in-one prize package, including a Mercedes-Benz automobile, for any golfer who makes a hole-in-one during the tournament. This generous contribution is responsible for recruiting players in the sold-out event. In addition, Gloria’s personal support has inspired others to support the tournament.

“To say Mrs. Hicks is a generous and selfless woman doesn’t do her justice. She is a true champion for children with cancer,” says Mecklin Ragan, co-founder of TOKC and the sister of James Ragan. “Her efforts to help TOKC achieve our goal of bringing about an end to a world where children have to face the horrors of pediatric cancer is immeasurable.”

Thanks to the generous commitment of people like Gloria Hicks, Triumph Over Kid Cancer was able to launch The Children’s Sarcoma Initiative with M.D. Anderson in 2010 to fund novel cancer treatment ideas, and The Genomic Research and Sequencing Project for Pediatrics with M.D.Anderson in 2014. Currently they are funding a phase II drug trial, and have also pledged to raise $1 million for the Childhood Cancer Cell Therapy project at Texas Children’s Hospital.

You can help Triumph Over Kid Cancer win the war against childhood cancers and save the lives of millions of children alive today and those yet to be born. Visit TriumphOverKidCancer.org for more information or to make a donation.

Join TOKC this #GivingTuesday

Join TOKC this #GivingTuesday

November is traditionally the month of giving thanks and giving back to those who make a difference. In recent years, organizations from all over the globe have taken part in #GivingTuesday, a global campaign where communities recognize their favorite organizations or nonprofits that improve the livelihood of others by donating to their missions.  

This year, we celebrate on November 27, 2018.

While we appreciate your support year-round, #GivingTuesday is the one day in the year when organizations like TOKC are given recognition and the necessary funding to continue life-changing work.

We proudly take part in #GivingTuesday, and all donations to TOKC go to help raise funds to improve the treatment and survivability of pediatric cancers.

Would you like to give to TOKC for this year’s #GivingTuesday? There are a few ways you can show your support.

 

  • Online donations are an easy and direct way to give straight to TOKC and our mission. When you donate, you are helping support research such as a Phase II trial at M.D. Anderson for lung metastasis and a Childhood Cancer Cell Therapy at Texas Children’s Hospital.  Each of these projects has the potential to create major breakthroughs in the treatment and cure of multiple orphan pediatric cancers. The funds received by each institution are matched by that institution.
  • Additionally, you can also give back while shopping for gifts from the TOKC store! We have a range of different products for sale and all proceeds go directly to TOKC. Shopping at TOKC is also a great way to start prepping for holiday gifts for the whole family — even pets!

Your donations and support are what keeps our mission going. Thank you for considering TOKC in this year’s #GivingTuesday!

TOKC Gives Thanks at Driscoll Children’s Hospital Thanksgiving Dinner

TOKC Gives Thanks

In honor of Thanksgiving being just around the corner, we want to reflect on last year’s amazing Driscoll Children’s Hospital Thanksgiving Dinner! From karaoke, dancing, photo booths and great food, our party goers had a blast celebrating Thanksgiving a little early with their families and doctors at Driscoll Children’s Hospital. This annual event is special to our organization because it’s a time solely dedicated to celebrating and giving thanks to our TOKC family. We love seeing all of the smiling faces at our events and look forward to continuing this tradition for years to come! Check out these video montages from last year’s event!

For a little sneak peak from this year’s 4th Annual Thanksgiving event, check out KIII TV and KZTV’s video coverage.  

Stay tuned for more photos and videos from this year’s event, and Happy Thanksgiving!  

Our Founder’s Legacy Continues to Triumph

James' Legacy Continues to Triumph

In 2006, James Ragan was an average junior high school student. An active athlete, James was a nationally ranked junior tennis player by the age of 13, when he first developed pain and swelling in his left knee.

A routine check-up with a medical specialist led to his diagnosis with Osteosarcoma, a deadly form of bone cancer. He left the 7th grade as a strong, healthy athlete only to return the following year frail and without hair as a result of intensive chemotherapy treatments.

Despite grueling surgeries and devastating treatments, James remained positive and kept moving forward.

When James and his older sister, Mecklin, learned there was no cure for his disease, nor research being done to find one, they decided to take this experience and influence change: they made it their mission to raise money to fund pediatric cancer research.

In 2007, one year after his diagnosis, James and Mecklin hosted a toga party with the theme, “Triumph Over Kid Cancer.” The event garnered $40,000 its inaugural year, which was donated to Driscoll Children’s Hospital and M.D. Anderson. This initiative led to the development of our foundation in 2010.

For the next four years, we continued our charitable efforts raising over $1 million dollars toward pediatric cancer research in partnership with M.D. Anderson Cancer Center. Throughout this time, James himself dealt with multiple surgeries and experimental treatments, that gradually eroded his health and quality of life. On February 17, 2014, shortly after meeting their first goal of $1.5 million dollars toward M.D. Anderson’s Children’s Sarcoma Initiative, James passed away.

Like thousands of other pediatric cancer children before him, we lost the promise he brought to the future. We proudly continue to carry on James’ legacy through our fundraising, supporting multiple research projects throughout the years. Most recently, we have begun 2 new pledge projects, matched dollar for dollar by their respective institutions:

  • $1 million to fund a phase 2 drug trial at M.D. Anderson for a drug whose original research was funded by the Children’s Sarcoma Initiative.
  • $1 million to fund a new immunotherapy drug being developed at Texas Children’s Hospital.

Each institution’s research projects have the potential to create major breakthroughs in the treatment and cure of multiple orphan pediatric cancer.

If you would like to help honor James’ legacy and contribute to this innovative research, learn more about our partnership opportunities by emailing TOKC@TriumphOverKidCancer.org, calling 361-883-TOKC (8652) or by donating online here.

4 Ways to Show Your Support During Childhood Cancer Awareness Month

Childhood Cancer Awareness Month

In honor of Childhood Cancer Awareness Month in September, TOKC is shining a light on ways to make a difference for kids battling cancer. Below are four ways to recognize Childhood Cancer Awareness this month:

 

Donate

One of the most crucial ways to show your support during Childhood Cancer Awareness Month is to take action by donating. When you donate to TOKC, you help advance progressive research into pediatric cancers. All donations made to TOKC are matched dollar-for-dollar by MD Anderson and Texas Children’s Hospital.

 

Purchasing gifts that give back

You can also shop directly from the TOKC website. We have a wide variety of products available that make great gifts for loved ones or for a pediatric cancer patient to help brighten their day. All proceeds of your purchase go directly back to our organization’s mission.   


Many online shopping websites provide an option to give back while you shop, like Amazon’s AmazonSmile program, where a percentage of your purchase is donated to the nonprofit organization of choice.    

 

Host an event

Hosting fundraising events are another fun way to spread awareness and get others involved in the cause. You can partner with businesses in the community, host neighborhood competitions, or host a screening of the “Until 20” documentary at a local venue. Organizing an event is a great way to bring together your community for a compassionate cause. Some of the TOKC events taking place this month are:

If you have an event idea or want to host an event but need ideas, TOKC is here to help make this a success.

 

Volunteer

Volunteer your extra time in honor Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. You can make a child’s day by visiting their hospital and spending time with them. Many hospitals allow visitors to take gifts to the children to lift their spirits. Another way to volunteer is to help plan or work at a fundraising event. TOKC continually organizes events or hospital visits which volunteers can be a part of. We are thankful for everything our volunteers do and always have opportunities for new volunteers to get involved.

  • M.D. Anderson Children’s Cancer Hospital – Tuesday, Sept. 25th, 9:30am – 11:30am
  • Texas Children’s Hospital – Wednesday, Sept. 26th, 9:30am – 11:30am
  • Ochsner Hospital for Children – Wednesday, Sept. 19th, 9:30am – 11:30am
  • Driscoll Children’s Hospital – Wednesday, Sept. 19th, 9:30am – 11:30am

Whether you choose to donate, shop for a cause, host an event or volunteer your time, your life will be changed when you give back. If you would like to find more ways to volunteer or host an event, contact us at 361-883-TOKC or emails us at TOKC@TriumphOverKidCancer.org

5 Ways Your Classroom Can Raise Awareness for Kids with Cancer

Raising Awareness & Funds in Class

School is back in session, and whether you’re a teacher or student, you can get your classroom involved in fundraising activities to support local nonprofits like the Triumph Over Kid Cancer Foundation. Below are five ways to help raise awareness and funds for pediatric cancer patients in the classroom

 

Waffle Breakfast

Host a waffle breakfast for students to fuel them for their day of learning. Last year, TOKC hosted an Annual DoThatOneThing! Waffle Breakfast and was a huge success, raising over $2,500 for pediatric cancer research. Have a station set up where students can make a donation for waffles and decorate them with toppings. For an added bonus, have a waffle decorating competition!

 

Candy Sale

Selling candy is one of the easiest ways to fundraise for TOKC. You can purchase candy/chocolate in bulk at a store or through a company and resell it at your school. Other healthy alternatives to candy can range from popcorn to granola bars. All these snacks will be a guaranteed hit and are perfect to crave any lingering fits of hunger after lunch or recess.

 

Wear Orange Day

Offer students the chance to wear orange in place of their normal school dress code to show their support of TOKC. Students will often jump at the chance to take a break from the normal routine and brighten their day with some color. Students wanting to participate can bring a small donation for TOKC so they can rock orange clothes for the day.

 

Pie a Teacher

Liven up the school year by giving students the chance to pie their favorite teacher. If a certain amount of money is donated, students can pick a teacher to grace with pie in their face. To raise the stakes, offer the chance to pie multiple teachers and even the principal as the students pass multiple donation goals throughout the school year.

 

Game Day

Set up a game day with outdoor and indoor activities. Students and teachers can purchase a ticket to participate and enjoy a fun afternoon. Offer small prizes to winners to raise the stakes of the games. No doubt that taking a break from the school day to do something fun will get students excited about participating.

 

However your class chooses to get involved, your donations go directly to advancing life-saving research and treatments for pediatric cancer. To make your fundraising go further, MD Anderson and Texas Children’s Hospital will match donations benefiting TOKC dollar-for-dollar.

Some schools may need a school sanctioned program or organization such as TOKC’s DoThatOneThing! Councils to raise funds. If you would like assistance to help organize your summer fundraiser for TOKC or to establish a school sanctioned program, contact us at 361-883-TOKC or email us at TOKC@TriumphOverKidCancer.org