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Children's Cancer Fund Antoine Wilkerson and his mom Kierria Wilkerson meet Honorary Co-Chairs Troy Aikman and Roger Staubach during the autograph session of the photo shoot for this year’s Children’s Cancer Fund Gala.

 

Chair Kimberly Schlegel Whitman Joins Honorary Chairs Roger Staubach & Troy Aikman and cancer patients, survivors, and celebrities for a fashion show, dinner, and dancing to raise funds for pediatric oncology research and treatment

Hannah Jones, 11, of Denison, Caitlyn Warren, 7, of Longview, Antoine Wilkerson, 5, of Pittsburg, and Sawyer Rucker, 5, of Tyler, are featured models in theChildren’s Cancer Fund Gala “An Evening in the Garden,” where hope blooms in an enchanted garden filled with miraculous stories of survival, on Friday, April 26, 2019, at the Hilton Anatole Dallas.  The event begins with a silent auction and VIP reception at 6 p.m. followed by the dinner and program at 7 p.m. Chair Kimberly Schlegel Whitman joins longtime Honorary Co-Chairs Roger Staubach and Troy Aikman to kick off the evening.  The event is expected to raise more than $1 million to support pediatric cancer research and treatment programs at Children's Health and UT Southwestern.  Staubach, who has been involved all 31 years, and Aikman, now in his 22nd year, join other celebrities and sponsors as runway escorts for 25 featured pediatric cancer patients, ages 4-16, who model fashions by Dillard’s for the annual fashion show, produced by RSC Show Productions. Upon arrival, guests will be transported into a lush garden setting, complete with a floral swing and a gift card tree – all designed and created by GRO Events and Design. The evening will conclude with dancing and entertainment, provided by DJ Souljah and a violin accompanist.

On Easter Sunday of 2017, Hannah Jones was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), a type of cancer of the blood and bone marrow. ALL is one of the most common types of childhood cancers. Upon her diagnosis she was flown to Children’s Medical Center in Dallas, where she and her mom lived for the next 28 days. On the 28th day she was declared in remission.  She continues to see her doctors on a monthly basis.

“Hannah has stayed healthy and strong through treatment and for that, we thank God,” said her mom Robin Jones. “She is such a sweet-spirited young lady who is as sweet on the inside as she is pretty on the outside. She has used her bravery and her positivity to beat her cancer.”

Jones is homeschooled and has six siblings. She is the happiest when she is with her family and friends. She loves to cook with her mom and hopes to one day be a professional baker.  She also loves to hunt with her dad, draw with her brother, and do craft projects with her sisters. In the summer she enjoys swimming, and in the winter, she likes to go camping. She hopes to go back to Florida again one day because she had so much fun there with her family last year.

“I am excited about being a fashion model in the show because I love to be on the runway,” said Jones.

In September of 2016, Caitlyn Warren was diagnosed with B-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), a type of cancer of the blood and bone marrow in which too many B-cell lymphoblasts are found. ALL is one of the most common types of childhood cancers. Warren is currently in treatment with visits to her doctor once a month.

“Throughout it all, Caitlyn always radiated so much joy and rarely complained of her own sickness,” said Christina Warren, her mother. “Instead, she would always worry about everyone around her.”

Warren is in the second grade, has two siblings, and loves to sing, cook, and play. She is happiest when she’s with her family. God is her hero because she knows He loves her and will answer her prayers.  One day she would love to travel to Hawaii because Moana is from there, and she would like to swim with the dolphins and collect lots of seashells.

Her cancer journey began only a few weeks into kindergarten, when she woke up complaining of leg pain. Her knee became swollen, and scans revealed a lesion on right femur caused it to fracture. The fracture was surrounded by a large amount of fluid, and the family was sent to an orthopedic surgeon and oncologist the following day at Children’s. Initially doctors believed she had sarcoma, but after the biopsy it was determined she had B-cell ALL.

“I received the call while I was waiting in the carpool line at school and was devastated as I learned the next steps,” said Christina Warren, Caitlyn’s mother. “PET scan and bone marrow biopsy scheduled for Monday, surgery to insert the port on Tuesday, and chemo would begin Wednesday. The world we knew was forever changed. However, the doctors were relieved that it was not sarcoma. They said this was their specialty with a 95 percent cure rate, less invasive therapy, and no surgery.” 

While in the hospital for the port placement, the nurse practitioner informed the family that had the original diagnosis from the orthopedic surgeon been confirmed, Warren would have been looking at 40+ surgeries in her lifetime. A month later the family found out the orthopedic surgeon told the pediatrician, just days before we received the diagnosis, that he anticipated Warren would lose her leg.

“Now we understood why our oncologist had such a huge sigh of relief,” added Christina Warren. “Hearing all of this helped us remember how truly blessed we were during the most di?cult months to come.”

Warren became homebound, and her kindergarten teacher requested to be her teacher, visiting 2-3 times a week to help her from falling behind. Due to the fracture, Warren was unable to walk and was confined to a wheelchair for two months.  During the first month on steroids, she gained a substantial amount of weight and began losing hair in the frontand top of her head, leaving small patches of long 'dead-looking' hair along the back. 

“At Christmas 2016, my husband let Caitlyn shave his head, which gave her the confidence to finally shave her own,” added Christina Warren.  “She became an incredible light in the midst of such darkness. Our faith and trust in God were the only things that helped us through it all as we were hit emotionally, physically, as well as financially, when my husband decided to close his new business so he could be in Dallas by her side. We are grateful for all the support we received from our friends, family and church.”   

“I’m excited about being a fashion model in the show because I will get to dress up, look pretty, and have fun,” said Warren. “I’m looking forward to walking down that runway and raising lots of money to cure cancer!”

In January of 2018, Antoine Wilkerson was diagnosed with medulloblastoma, a cancerous tumor that starts in the region of the brain at the base of the skull. He is not currently in treatment but visits his doctor every three months. It all began in November of 2016 when he began complaining of headaches.  An MRI revealed a large tumor of the brain, and two days later he had surgery which resulted in the removal of the entire tumor and a good prognosis. He received one year of IV chemotherapy, radiation, and oral chemotherapy.

“In June the doctors detected what appeared to be regrowth of the tumor,” added Kierria Wilkerson, his mom. “We prayed and Antoine’s second surgery revealed it was only scar tissue!  Meanwhile an ear specialist discovered the IV chemo had cause him to lose his high-pitched hearing and he received hearing aids. We still counted this a blessing because it could have been much worse!”

Monday through Friday for 12 weeks, Wilkerson had to be put to sleep with sedation for radiation treatments because he was so young. For the remaining six months he stayed home and took oral chemotherapy.

“Can you imagine a 4-year-old swallowing pills?” said his mother. “He said God helped him, and I believe him! After his brain surgeries, he was in so much pain and asked his Dad and me to pray with him – our 4-year-old son was asking to pray. He will tell you he is God’s child. Throughout it all, he smiled and never let it get him down. His wonderful nurse told him she was also a cancer survivor, and she told him about the Children’s Cancer Fund Fashion Show. She had participated when she was 16. There have been so many blessings and so much love from this unfortunate situation.”

Wilkerson has four older siblings, attends Pittsburg Primary School, and wants to be a doctor when he grows up. He loves playing in sprinklers, playing video games, and wrestling. He considers Batman to be his hero because he keeps him from getting hurt. He loves being with his mom and dad and would love to go to Disney World to see everything that is there.

“I am excited about being a fashion model in the show because I think it will be fun and I can meet famous people,” said Wilkerson. 

In July of 2014, Sawyer Rucker was diagnosed with infantile acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), a type of cancer of the blood and bone marrow. While ALL is one of the most common types of childhood cancers, leukemia in infants is extremely rare.  While Rucker is no longer in treatment, he is monitored closely for any potential relapse.

“I’m Sawyer the Warrior!” said Rucker. “I have no more cancer because Jesus healed me!”

Rucker is one of eight siblings with a personality larger than life.  When he grows up, he would like to be a firefighter. For now, he enjoys being with his mom and dad and swimming, and he loves surprises.

“Sawyer was diagnosed as a baby, so hospital life and chemo is all he’s ever known,” said Heather Rucker, his mother. “He has CRUSHED all the negative expectations of the doctors and has overcome dozens of spinal taps, blood transfusions, surgeries, shots, and long-term hospitalizations.”

"I’m excited to be a fashion model in the show because I think it would be cool,” said Rucker.

The gala, which is the organization’s largest annual fundraiser for pediatric cancer, is sponsored by CBS 11 and features Karen Borta as mistress of ceremonies. Since 1982 Children’s Cancer Fund has donated over $10 million to the childhood cancer cause.

 “The Children’s Cancer Fund Gala brings together kids who have been through such hard times, from chemo to radiation,” said Jennifer Arthur, executive director, Children’s Cancer Fund.  “No matter where they are in treatment – day one or year 12 – we are celebrating their lives and letting them know they are not alone in this fight. The commitments of our supporters on this special night give us hope of a day when childhood cancer will no longer exist.”

Gala Chair Kimberly Schlegel Whitman has served as a lifestyle contributor to the TODAY Show on NBC and editor-at-large of Southern Living Magazine since 2011. She is the author of eight books on entertaining, including her latest, Parties Around a Punch Bowl. Whitman is also a mother of two children and an active member of the Dallas community.  Presently, she is the chair of the NorthPark Ambassador Program, where she is working to raise awareness for Dwell with Dignity. Along with her husband, Justin, she co-chaired the North Texas Food Bank’s Food 4 Kids program for two years and served on the board. She is a member of The Sweetheart Ball, the New Friends New Life Advisory Board, and the MTV RE:DEFINE Advisory Committee, of which she is a past chair. This spring Whitman is honorary chair of the DWD Thrift Studio Event. Additionally, she is a 2018 and 2019 Crystal Charity Ball Ten Best Dressed Honoree, a recipient of the American Heart Association Volunteer of the Year Award and a co-recipient of the Virginia Chandler Dykes Leadership Award, sharing the honor with her mother, Myrna Schlegel. 

“After meeting these children at the hospital, I was amazed to see not only their strength and resilience, but also such joy on each of their faces – in the midst of their incredibly hard battles,” said Kimberly Schlegel Whitman, Gala chair. “No child or family deserves what comes with a cancer diagnosis. Children’s Cancer Fund is making an impact, and I’m thrilled to help through the Gala. I consider each of these special children my new friends in life, and I’m looking forward to supporting them in their fight.”

Children’s Cancer Fund was founded 36 years ago by a coalition of parents whose children were receiving cancer therapy at Children’s Medical Center. The organizers have since been joined by community leaders, dedicated volunteers, and health professionals in their fundraising efforts. CCF is one of the nation’s leading fundraising groups in supporting local research toward treatment and prevention of childhood cancers. Among the programs supported by Children’s Cancer Fund are the Pediatric Hematology-Oncology Fellowship Program at Children's Health and the Children's Cancer Fund Comprehensive Center for Research in Pediatric Oncology and Hematology at UT Southwestern Medical Center, which is gaining a national reputation for its work in eradicating childhood cancer. In 2002, Children’s Cancer Fund initiated funding for a full-time Child Life Specialist at the Pauline Allen Gill Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders in Children’s Medical Center to assist the outpatient team. The primary goal of the Child Life Specialist is to make each of the 80-90 daily outpatients’ visits a more positive experience. This position is funded annually by CCF, helping to ease the emotional strain of ongoing treatments, some lasting several years.

“The children have looked forward to this night all year,” added Arthur. “They spend the day getting runway ready and reuniting with their friends backstage, and when the spotlight comes on, you will see some of the happiest smiles. The grand finale, which features CCF models from the past 30 years, is one of the most incredible moments of the evening. These stories of survival are a testimony to the impact CCF is making in our community.”

Sponsors to date include: $75,000: Nancy C. and Richard R. Rogers; $50,000: Sewell Automotive Companies; Texas de Brazil; $25,000: Children’s Health; Jennifer Stroud Foundation; Marianne and Roger Staubach; $15,000: Lana and Barry Andrews with Natalie and Mike McGuire; $10,000:Deborah and John Ahmed; Capa and Troy Aikman; Charles Bailey; Lisa and Clay Cooley; Headington Companies; James and Edna Hallsey Family Limited Partnership; Tracy and Ben Lange; McCullough Foundation; Holly and Barry Pennett, Myrna and Robert Schlegel; $5,000: Wasan and Kasim Alfalahi; Allie Beth Allman; BB&T; Lindy and Brad Berkley; CB Choi Family Foundation; Dr. and Mrs. Kenneth H. Cooper; Juanika and Monta Ellis; Gralapp Family; Greenberg Traurig, LLP/Bina Palnitkar; Hawk + Sloane; Hillcrest Five Group; J.W. Logistics, LLC; KPMG LLP; Mandy & Bill Dillard Charitable Foundation/Amanda and Charlie Shufeldt; Lori and Lee Mikles; Stephanie and Hunt Neurohr; Jessica and Dirk Nowitzki; Elizabeth and Kevin Phillips; S2 Capital; Betty and Brian Schultz; and Lisa and Steve Serra.

In-kind sponsors include: Auberge in Aspen; American Airlines; bell’INVITO; Buxton Marine; Dallas Swat; Dennis Basso; Dillard’s; Drakeley Magic; Jason Evans; Fleetwood Hicks; Gene and Jerry Jones Family Foundation; Glad Tower Live Productions; GovPlanet; GRO Floral & Event Design; Harper’s Bazaar; Hayden’s Help and Air Flow Solutions; Hilton Anatole; The Joule Hotel; Juliska; Kelmari Jewelry; Kendra Scott; Martin Brower; Matthew McConaughey and JK Living Foundation; Matthew Trent; Jennifer McRorey, Artist; Stacy and Mark McKay; Myra Meier and The Plaza Hotel; Nici and David Muzzo; Nomad Productions; NorthPark Center; Outfront Media; Patty Foppen Photography; Raising Cane’s; Ritchie Bros.; The Ritz-Carlton Santa Barbara; Nancy C. and Richard R. Rogers; Jennifer and Walker Royall; RSC Productions; RSOUL Royal Productions; Salon Pompeo; Samuel Lynne Galleries; Sewell Automotive Companies; Society Bakery; Sprinkles and Candace Nelson; Stanley Korshak; Stuart Wietzman; and Villy Custom.

The media sponsors are CBS11/TXA21 and PaperCity magazine.

Visit Jones’ personal fundraising page:  www.childrenscancerfund.com/hannahjones.

Gala tickets are $300. Contact Children’s Cancer Fund at 972-664-1450 or visit www.ChildrensCancerFund.com/gala for reservations and more information. 

See video below for last year's gala!