SPRINGDALE, Ark. (KNWA) — At just 9-months-old Tori Johnson was diagnosed with a rare and aggressive form of brain cancer called AT/RT.
“The day she got sick we were just a normal northwest Arkansas family enjoying the area and life as normal and then it all got rocked within a couple of hours of waking up,” said Tori’s mother Erin.
Tori was airlifted to Arkansas Children’s in Little Rock where she had a tennis ball-sized tumor removed from her brain. She then underwent six months of high dose rounds of chemo, three stem cell transplants and six weeks of radiation.
“We give money for sick kids, my child can’t be the sick kid,” Erin said as she recalled the emotional day when her family found out about Tori’s diagnosis.
Now four years later Tori is cancer-free and she and her family are using this unexpected experience to raise awareness and money for treatment for other kids who have pediatric cancer. This year Tori is the 2019 Champion Child for Arkansas Children Northwest’s Color of Hope Gala.
“To understand the mission of a children’s hospital you really have to have some child to tie it to,” said Mandy Macke, the Color of Hope chair, executive director of the Willard and Pat Walker Charitable Foundation and an Arkansas Children’s board member. Together Macke, Tori, and the Johnsons have worked tirelessly to make the 2019 Color of Hope a success.
This year’s gala theme is “Go Gold for Pediatric Cancer.” The goal is to raise enough money to create a hematology-oncology department at Arkansas Children’s Northwest. “There are currently at least 250 kids being treated in the state of Arkansas for cancer and one-third are here in Northwest Arkansas,” Macke said.
Erin said a new hematology-oncology department is critical for Northwest Arkansas kids who are diagnosed with cancer.
“You don’t know how important care is close to home until it’s your family that needs it,” Erin continued, “these are our babies, these are our future leaders, the people that are going to run the world and they can’t change the world unless they’re healthy,” said Erin.
To read more about the Color of Hope Gala to benefit Arkansas Children’s Northwest click here.