Pictures of "angels and warriors," most of them bald, took over Times Square recently through the efforts of an Andover native and her daughter's legacy.
Kezia and Mike Fitzgerald, Danvers residents with a personal connection to Andover, recently kicked off the beginning of their foundation's efforts to increase awareness and enhance the treatment of neuroblastoma, a childhood cancer that killed their newborn daughter less than a year ago.
Kezia Fitzgerald, daughter to Andover residents Craig and Kristina Liversidge, and her family made national headlines in 2011 when Kezia was diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma and, months into her cancer treatment, her daughter Saoirse was diagnosed with cancer as well. Kezia ultimately entered remission, but on Dec. 13, Saoirse died.
After that, the family was no longer juggling daily medical treatments, tests and phone calls to help their daughter towards a clean bill of health.
"It was very much like the world sort of disappeared, in the sense that instead of having to do all of these things to do that day, we had nothing scheduled," said Kezia.
During Saoirse's treatment, with both parents having to leave their jobs, the Fitzgerald Cancer Fund was created to help them pay their bills while health insurance covered the rest. Now, six months after Saoirse's passing, the organization has rebranded itself. The Fitzgerald Cancer Fund is going nonprofit.
"One of the best ways we found to deal with [losing Saoirse] was do the foundation, and make sure that other kids don't have to suffer like this," said Mike Fitzgerald. "If we can find a way to help people, that's what we're going to do."
The Fitzgerald Cancer Fund seeks to accomplish four goals: provide grants to families in need of money for treatment and expenses, provide funding for research trials and treatments using less toxic treatment methods, educate doctors on early warning signs of neuroblastoma and connect parents who are fighting or have fought the battle so they can share their experiences.
"The last thing is to help the families," said Kezia Fitzgerald. "Give families, who are fighting, a parent who has done it before — a resource that has been through it, [who understands] the emotions and what they're feeling."
The fund kicked off its transformation in Times Square on June 18, just days after the six month anniversary of Saoirse's death. There, lined up outside NBC's Today Show, Saoirse's image — where she was named an "NB Angel" after losing her battle — joined the ranks of 17 other angels, warriors (those who are currently fighting neuroblastoma) and survivors (those who are in remission).
"It's just the first of many types of public flash mobs we're going to organize over the year," said Mike Fitzgerald. "There's no reason we can't make a difference in a really solid way of how these children are treated."
• • •
For more on the Fitzgerald Cancer Fund, visit fitzgeraldncancerfund.org.