Giving Hope

Published on December 19th, 2011 by Diana Duren.

Lily’s Garden

One family’s mission to cure cancer
Lily Hensiek (left) with mom, Larisa, and younger sister, Sophie. Photo by Daniel Dubois.

Lily Hensiek wanted a garden rich with beautiful lush flowers. But first, she needed to clear out the weeds that had taken over her garden so she could plant new healthy seeds.

For a 7-year-old child newly diagnosed with Pre B Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia, it was an analogy that was easy to understand.

Her pediatric hematologist/oncologist at the time, Michael Engel, M.D., told her the cancer was like a weed that had overwhelmed her blood cells, and the chemotherapy was like a weed killer that would allow her to sow a new garden – full of lilies.

A seed planted in Lily in 2008 flourished and continued to thrive – even to this day at age 10.

“She wanted to raise money to find a cure so no other kids would have to go through what she has been through,” said Lily’s mother, Larisa Hensiek. “So, I asked her, ‘how much do you want to raise?’”

“One hundred dollars,” Lily told her mother, who replied, “I can give that to you right now.”

Instead, Lily declared a bigger goal – $1 million, and she hasn’t wavered.

Lily is now in remission and her garden is growing.  Playing off the concept of a garden and her name, the Hensiek family created a fund dubbed “Lily’s Garden.” The endowment fund for the Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at
Vanderbilt supports childhood cancer research.

The Hensiek family, from Franklin, Tenn., has already raised $300,000. The family owns its own business, Johnston & Associates, a workplace safety consulting firm, and has been able to contribute donations along with the money that is raised. Larisa’s father Ron Johnston founded the company.

Lily and her family spent a lot of time at Children’s Hospital, and endured two and a half years of treatment. She had been an active girl, participating in gymnastics and playing with her dogs. But cancer zapped her energy, and eventually, she lost her blonde curly locks of hair. Lily wondered “why do kids have to go through so much,” and said, “…they should be able to take just one pill.”

The Hensiek family realized, through their own exploration, that childhood cancer research was lacking, especially compared to research for adult cancers.

Each year, more than 12,000 children are diagnosed with cancer of all types, and more than 3,000 die from the disease.

“These kids aren’t little adults and they need their own cures and own research,” said Larisa. “We wanted to raise money to cure childhood cancer. We also want to keep it close to home and to support the doctors we’ve come to love and the research done at Vanderbilt.”

Lily had an outpouring of support for her fundraising. One girl gave $1 each week from her allowance. Lily also joined the Franklin Race 4 the Cure, helping raise money for childhood cancer research.

“We want to inspire young scientists, researchers and doctors to look at innovative ways to push the envelope,”
Larisa said. “We’re on our way to raise a million.”

Lily finished her treatment in February 2011, though she receives frequent checkups.

Her hair has grown back. She’s active again with cheerleading and basketball, hangs out with her friends and puts on plays. “She’s so much stronger than I am,” said Lily’s mother. “She has taught me perspective on life. It’s amazing how a 10-year-old can have such a great outlook on life.”

– by Christina Echegaray

Children’s Hospital again ranked among the best

Again this year, the Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt was included among the nation’s leaders in pediatric health care in U.S. News & World Report magazine’s Best Children’s Hospitals rankings.
The hospital achieved rankings in a maximum of 10 out of 10 pediatric specialty programs.

“We are pleased that Children’s Hospital enjoys a national reputation in 10 specialties,” said Luke Gregory, chief executive officer of Children’s Hospital. “Few hospitals offer such expertise in so many areas. Our community pediatricians are to be commended for their guidance and support of these strong medical resources for all families.”

The U.S. News Best Children’s Hospitals rankings for 2011-2012 recognize top performers among the nation’s 177 designated pediatric hospitals. Children’s Hospital has been ranked every year by U.S. News since the inception of the pediatric rankings, now in their fifth year.

Children’s Hospital continues to be a leader in Urology, improving one spot to now rank 5th. A substantial
improvement was also seen in Cardiology and Heart Surgery, with Vanderbilt’s program moving from 26th to 20th in the nation, while the Division of Neonatology maintained its No. 11 spot.

Other specialties ranked this year include: Cancer-41, Diabetes and Endocrinology-25, Gastroenterology-22, Nephrology-39, Neurology and Neurosurgery-39, Orthopaedics-29 and Pulmonology-36.

– by Christina Echegaray

Nashville’s professional hockey team, the Nashville Predators, has scored several assists in the fight against childhood cancer.

Predators mascot Gnash, right, and Champ, from Children’s Hospital, visit with a patient at Children’s Hospital. Photo by Steve Green.

Since 2008, the National Hockey League team has raised funds for an endowment for pediatric cancer research at Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt. The Predators dedicate two games each season to Hockey Fights Cancer. A portion of the ticket proceeds benefit the Nashville Predators Pediatric Cancer Research Fund at Children’s Hospital.

In August, Nashville Predators forward Martin Erat, goaltender Anders Lindback and President/Chief
Operating Officer Sean Henry presented a $181,000 check to Children’s Hospital. It was the team’s third consecutive donation, raising more than $425,000 for the hospital.

The funds help Children’s Hospital researchers work to identify cures and
better treatments for childhood cancer.

In addition to their fundraising efforts, the team also brings top players and mascot Gnash to the hospital several times a year. They visit room-to-room with patients to sign autographs and take photos as well as spend time listening to patients’ stories.

– by Christina Echegaray

Children’s Miracle Network Telethon 2011

The annual Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals’ Telethon benefiting the Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt saw another banner year, raising more than $1.5 million in pledged support. The telethon, in its 28th year, was held June 5. Every spring, WTVF-News Channel 5 partners with Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals to highlight inspiring stories from patients and families at Children’s Hospital. The money raised goes toward the
Children’s Fund, which supports the hospital’s research, specialized equipment, patient
programs and other important efforts.