It's a Bird, it's a plane...
We are in the middle of preparations for the seventh annual Superhero Day, a childhood cancer awareness event that Eli's Block Party Childhood Cancer Foundation hosts in
September for childhood cancer month. It’s a great one to sponsor! North Alabama Eye Care is our title sponsor this year. They can “SEE” that it is awesome! It is our most popular and successful event so far and Eli always really liked it. We hosted the first one at his school. He wasn't a huge Superhero guy, he was a bigger Sponge Bob fan than Superheroes, but he did like The Incredibles, War Machine and Iron Man. He did LOVE Transformers, which I guess might can kind of count as Superheroes in a very loose sense.
In December 2013, (one year before we were a 501c3) Eli was doing well, he was over a year out from the end of his first treatment and he had been having clean scans.
He looked great, felt great, was even back in school. But a few days after that first Superhero Day we learned that his personal villain was back.
We were thankful for this assumed health, and humbled and grateful for the support we had at home during that time. It was Eli's birthday, but we had to go to St. Jude for another routine scan, or what we thought was routine. We really wanted to do something fun for the kids at his school, so I asked the PE teacher, a friend of mine, if we could rent a blow-up (Superhero themed) and bring some brownies for her classes throughout the day. We gave out childhood cancer stickers, collected Hot Wheels to take back to St. Jude with us, and I let the kids write well-wishes on the car we would be driving to Memphis. We asked the school to announce it as Superhero Fun Day and everyone was able to wear their favorite Superhero shirt. That was the first Superhero Day.
Those of you that have been in this group for short of a decade know that I can not restrain my brain from thinking bigger. It was so much fun for us to host (my sister and her husband were our first "volunteers"), and seeing the kids enjoy it and participate was so encouraging. So, I thought, we shouldn’t keep this kind of a fun thing to ourselves. We should make it where anybody can come, use it to raise awareness in our community.
I was friends with a couple of other cancer parents locally, so I asked them if they’d like to help me organize it as an awareness event for the community in the park. They jumped in and we hosted our first event in the park in 2014 with 5 Superheroes. In January 2015, I finally incorporated as a 501c3 so that we could do more, bigger. The event was a lot of work even back then, so I offered to take it in under the non-profit and grow it. The other two parents had their own efforts outside of the event, so they were not interested in continuing with it at the organization level. Except that one of them does host a kids activity through her work, and her daughter, the cancer kid, (no longer a kid, now studying to be a nurse) has always participated in the parade when we recognize the cancer kids.
We've shortened the name to Superhero Day and it takes about 30 "Event Staff" volunteers to run it (not counting the 30 shift volunteers that sign up), plus this year, we will have almost 40 Superheroes. We have a parade of about 50 vehicles and about 70 additional people. The Real Heroes section has grown to include police, fire, sheriff, farmers, utility linemen, and this year we are adding teachers. We have a huge kids activity section with booths hosted by local businesses and organizations. Plus vendors, food, and music hosted by a DJ that thinks the event is so awesome he comes from Memphis each year (he also knew Eli). We have a prize tent with something for all ages (we rely on donations for the prizes). We expect about 4,000 people to come through this year.
This event is free to the public to attend. It will always be free to attend as far as I am involved. But, it is a fundraiser, so we are dependent upon donations and sponsors to cover the cost of the event and have a sizable amount left over to donate. This year we are raising money for Dr. Greg Friedman of Children’s of Alabama. His immunotherapy trial using a modified version of Herpes is showing some promise in brain cancers.
If you would like to participate in this event in any way, (sponsor, host a kids activity booth, or volunteer) information is on our website at www.elisblockparty.org. It truly is a great event, and I am so grateful to the people that have helped to make it what it is.