Against all odds, doctors at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center saved Jenna Miller's life when she was a toddler. Sixteen years later, Miller keeps hope alive that the hospital will find a cure for children's cancers.
Miller, of Oxford, is an 18-year-old freshman pre-law student at Marist College in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., was on her spine called a neuroblastoma when she was just 18 months old. Though many doctors told her parents there was no hope, oncologists at Memorial Sloan-Kettering (MSK) removed the tumor and saved her life.
On Saturday, Miller will give back to the hospital when she organizes the first
"Connecticut Kids Walk for Kids With Cancer" in Shelton. The event will be held at 1:30 p.m. at Veterans Memorial Park at 37 Canal Street East. The group of walkers will set up in the middle of the park. All money raised will go toward pediatric cancer research at MSK.
“I want to help other kids have the same chance I do,” said Miller, who is organizing the walk with her younger sister, Cassandra, a freshman at . “I want other kids to be able to have every opportunity they possibly can in life, without their cancer diagnosis stopping them. Memorial Sloan-Kettering gives children that chance.”
"Kids Walk for Kids With Cancer" is an annual event that began in 2001 in New York City and has run every year since. So far, it has raised more than $1.32 million for pediatric cancer research.
A “Kids Walk” has never been held in Connecticut, and, last year, the Miller girls decided it was about time that changed.
The event is an “upbeat, family-friendly walk-a-thon” that is organized by teenagers throughout the country. Each walker gets sponsors, and if they don’t, they are asked to contribute $20. Participants can also purchase a T-shirt for $10.
Along with Saturday’s event in Shelton, walks will be held in New York City, New Jersey, Kansas and North Carolina.
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Jenna Miller became heavily involved with the Kids Walk last year as part of a senior “Capstone” project at Oxford High School that is required for graduation. She organized a team of about 30 friends and family members, and they headed to New York City for last year’s "Kids Walk" on a coach bus donated by Connecticut Limo. At the walk, Miller had the opportunity to share her story and introduce one of her main oncologists, Dr. Nai-Kong Cheung, to the crowd. Later that day, Dr. Chueng said he thought Connecticut should have a "Kids Walk" and the Miller girls volunteered to spearhead it.
“One of the reasons I wanted to help raise money for MSK was because of the dedication and sophistication they had in treating me,” Jenna Miller said. “MSK was the second hospital I had a cancer-related surgery at. The first hospital operated to relieve pressure on my spine, and left a scar that is messy and blatantly visible.”
She said the first hospital told her family the tumor was inoperable and that she would have to undergo radiation and chemotherapy immediately, even though she probably wouldn't survive to see age 3.
“At MSK, it was a completely different story,” she said.
She didn’t need radiation or chemo, and doctors successfully removed her tumor. She believes the hospital can help many more people like her in the years to come.
“What I get out of helping with the walk is knowing that I'm somehow giving other kids the chance I had,” she said. “Memorial Sloan-Kettering is on the brink of finding a cure, and I want more than anything to be part of the reason why they finally find a cure for cancer.”
Click here for more information on the Kids Walk for Kids With Cancer and Saturday’s walk in Shelton. The link also has information about how to donate to the cause.