Here in Lexington, the high-profile husband and wife team of Joy and Matt Minner (parents of four healthy kids) are raising awareness and funding for research of childhood cancer in Kentucky, through their non-profit endeavor, Cure KY Kids, LLC. Concurrently, to reinforce the reality of the impact of this insidious disease, a local banker is sharing the story of the all too brief life of his beloved daughter, who died at the age of 8 from a rare form of cancer.
Joy and Matt, both Attorneys, are each frequent non-profit entity volunteers. Joy’s involvement with children’s hospitals makes her keenly in tune to the need for more awareness and research funding for pediatric oncology in Kentucky.
Matt, the Managing Partner with the Hare, Wynn, Newell & Newton, LLC office in downtown Lexington, has chaired many fundraising campaigns for the benefit of children affected by illnesses and other socio-economic hurdles.
The Minners, along with founding board members Dr. Karry Wilkes, a Pediatrician & Partner in the local Wilkes and Warner practice; Tucker Ballinger, local Forcht Bank President, and George D. Smith, an attorney with Stoll Keenon and Ogden, set out to accomplish their mission to raise funds for childhood cancer research and services in Kentucky, supporting children with cancer as well as their families with a unique plan.
Equally commited to the cause are other CURE KY Kids Board Members (Jacky Space, Meredith Jenkins, Jenifer Duncan and Nick Phelps). Kentucky’s kids deserve no less than an all-out effort to focus resources, leading to clinical advances to conquer this disease.
Having recently obtained approval from the Kentucky Transportation Department for the “Curing Childhood Cancer” specialty license plate, this initiative must secure a minimum of 900 commitments from Kentucky passenger vehicle owners to each purchase and proudly display the uniquely designed “Curing Childhood Cancer” license plate.
As soon as there are 900 confirmed supporters, the KY DMV will produce these special plates – each purchaser may either personalize his or her own 5-character lettering/number sequence, or, have the DMV assign the letter/number sequence.
The cost? $44 for a regular plate ($69 for a personalized plate). The reservation fee of $25 is to be paid in advance, with the balance due after notification from the KY DMV that the tags are available for pick up at your local tag office. Ten dollars from the sale of each plate will be donated to support pediatric cancer research and programs across the Commonwealth. The more special plates that are ordered, the more exposure this initiative will have, and the more its message will resonate across the Commonwealth. From Florence to Bowling Green, Paducah to Pikeville, passionate individuals have been reserving plates in honor of special people in their lives and to help raise awareness for the cause. According to Mr. Minner, “The individuals who make up the initial 900 commitments to put this specialty plate into production will be a part of a legacy that will have a huge impact on the lives of Kentucky’s children who are fighting the battle against cancer today and in the years to come.”
There exists an urgent need for this initiative in Kentucky. According to CURE KY Kids Board Member, Dr. Wilkes, “From a professional standpoint, I see these children, walk through cancer with them as patients, and have felt very inspired by this personal connection with cancer and our passion for children to drive forward CURE KY Kids.”
Sprightly, fun-loving 8-year-old Jillian Smalley, died from an exceedingly rare form of childhood cancer, all of those whose lives she touched would like you to realize:
CANCER is the leading cause of death by disease among America’s children
Approximately 150 Kentucky children (and 13,500 nationwide) are newly diagnosed with cancer each year.
While over 40,000 children undergo cancer treatments each year, the causes of childhood cancer remain largely unknown.
Despite the advancements in treatments, childhood cancer research remains vastly underfunded.
The heart-breaking reality of the need to fund research which will ultimately result in the long-sought CURE for pediatric cancer is epitomized by Jillian’s story, as told by her father, local Central Banker Jerry Smalley:
“Jillian was diagnosed with Mucoepidermoid Carconoma in her left lung at the UK Children’s Hospital in 2009 (fewer than 100 cases have been chronicled in the past 25 years.) She underwent chemotherapy one week out of each of the next 4 months, which required that she stay at UKCH. Although she was in remission in January 2010, the cancer returned and was detected on a follow-up visit in April of 2010.
She was transferred to MD Anderson/Houston’s Children’s hospital where we spent six full weeks. We almost lost her within the first week there because of a tumor pressing on her trachea. With surgery to implant a stent, she rallied, and we were able to do some site-seeing in the Houston area; we went to NASA, Galveston, the Zoo; she had manicures and pedicures with a new friend (also a patient) and we went shopping for HEELS!
Jillian loved to dress up in heels and she wore them when we went out to dinner in some of the finest restaurants in Houston. Her favorite meal? Filet mignon, baked potato, and steamed broccoli!
In late June, she was stable enough for her mother and I to bring her home, knowing that we had to return on July 21st for a check-up. We made the most of that time—Jillian attended her softball team’s picnic, went to Indian Summer Camp for children who have, or have had cancer, and then drove back to Houston. All during this odyssey, Luther Deaton, CEO, and several of my co-workers at Central Bank called daily to check on Jillian’s condition. When we were advised that Jillian was about to lose her battle, the Bank offered to send a plane for us so that our brave child could be at home when she passed, but the medical transportation requirements were so complex we opted to stay in Houston with Jillian.
God released her from her pain, and she passed on July 30, 2010. Her mother (who had been by Jillian’s side around the clock) and I were holding her hands and her grandmother, uncles and a friend were there. Our daughter’s last meal – cupcakes and a hamburger.
Her funeral service was at St. Paul Catholic Church downtown, where her school classmates attended and her best friend, Madeline Sutherland, spoke. Because Jillian loved ‘silly bands,’ usually with an arm full of them, her classmates passed out baskets full of those colorful circles to everyone at the service.”