Tom won’t stop fighting so neither will we!
Ask any child in Northern Virginia who is fighting or who has fought cancer, “Who is Tattoo Tom?” and they will likely crack the widest grin you’ve ever seen. “Tattoo” Tom Mitchell is the founder of the Stillbrave Childhood Cancer Foundation whose mission is to provide non-medical, supportive care to children with cancer and their families. Their mission is to help families of children battling cancer in any way that Stillbrave can:
While they are fighting the toughest war of their lives, we will fight their lesser battles, so they don’t have to. We are not only here to support children with cancer; we are here to help ease the burden of the family and the caregivers who are fighting battles of their own.
Stillbrave does everything from helping families pay bills, to providing gas and grocery cards, to helping with household chores like yard work and repairs, and even babysitting. But something Stillbrave gives that is not mentioned in the list on their website is Tom’s heart. Yes, this man who may intimidate most by his burly, tattooed appearance, is actually a man with a gigantic and giving heart. He sits with children for hours at the hospital. He dances with them, and plays games with them. He holds their hands when they are scared. He holds their little bodies when they wake up from procedures and they ask for Tom instead of mom. Tom gives of himself to these kids in such a beautiful way. Tom knows first hand what it’s like to have a child battle cancer: Tom lost his daughter, Shayla, to cancer when she was just 16 years old. As Tom gives of his huge heart to these little ones, they help to fill it with more love. But his heart is clearly battle torn. There are holes that will never be filled — there is a huge hole left when he lost his daughter Shayla. And there is a new hole each time Tom loses another one of the kids he loves: Gabby, Lily and Mathias to name just three from a list that should never even have one name on it.
Raising money for non-profits, especially in a down economy, you have to be creative. In 2013, Tom ran in the Northface Endurance Challenge Gore-Tex 50 miler and sought donations for Stillbrave. Then, in 2014, he up’d the ante and ran in the Mohican Trail 100. Yes, 100 miles. On his feet. To get through the race, Tom dedicated each mile to a child who is fighting, has fought, or who lost their battle to cancer. Mile 100 was dedicated to Tom’s daughter Shayla. “I am Stillbrave for her,” Tom told WJLA news last year during the Mohican 100. This year, Tom will be running in the Tahoe 200 mile ultra marathon. Two hundred miles is the approximate distance from DC to Virginia Beach! Tom is again dedicating each mile to a child who has lost, is fighting or who has fought cancer. And again, he is seeking donations for Stillbrave by running this race. Tom is asking for Mile Sponsors – individuals and companies who will step forward and donate $1,000 to sponsor a mile in honor or memory of one of the children for whom Tom is running. As of August 1st, Tom has raised $75,542 of his $200,000 goal. [Click here to sponsor a mile!]
Salon Khouri is sponsoring mile 65 in honor of Kate Rhoades, who was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia when she was just two years old. I’ve known Kate’s mom, Lindsay, for 17 years; we met while working at a non-profit in Old Town. Jonathan and I had our third child just a few months before Lindsay gave birth to Kate. I won’t forget the day I learned of Kate’s diagnosis with leukemia in August of 2013. Tears streamed down my face as I knew all too well the long and frightening road ahead of them. Kate’s chemo began immediately — in August of 2013 — and will be ending in six weeks from now … take a moment to let that timeframe sink in. We knew it would be a long and difficult road for Kate and her parents as Jonathan and I had unfortunately already experienced friends whose children were diagnosed with cancer. And yet, organizations like the National Cancer Institute appropriate only 4% of their research dollars to childhood cancer because it’s “rare.” You can read more about the cold, hard facts of childhood cancer here.
We are so very passionate about these kids. We pray that we will soon see a cure. And we will continue to do what we can to help. The children Tom is running for continue to inspire us. People like Tom inspire us. They will keep fighting, and so will we!
To additionally help Stillbrave, we will be collecting gas, grocery and restaurant cards during the month of August. The next time you are in the checkout line, grab a giftcard to bring in! To thank you for your help, everyone bringing in a gift card for Stillbrave will be entered into a drawing to win a 60 minute Salon Khouri Signature Facial.