Courage and Compassion: Tatum’s Bags of Fun

I had the opportunity to attend a fundraising benefit last weekend to support kids with cancer in Indiana, my home state. The White Party is the signature annual event for the charity, Tatum’s Bags of Fun.

Who is Tatum and What are Bags of Fun?

Tatum During her First Treatment

Tatum during her first treatment

I’m glad you asked! Tatum is a two-time cancer survivor, having been diagnosed with Ewing’s Sarcoma at age 6, and again eighteen months later. Now 15 year’s old, Tatum is 6-years cancer-free.

Once Tatum was doing better – having endured 3 surgeries and multiple rounds of chemotherapy and radiation over two years – she did not simply go off and resume her former life. She remembered just how much she benefited during out-of-state treatment from receiving a bag of goodies from the Gabby Krause Foundation – so she and her family resolved to do the same for kids diagnosed with cancer in Indiana.

Bags of fun are backpacks filled with age-appropriate games, toys and activities to keep kids amused and occupied while in the hospital and getting chemotherapy. As Tatum says in the video on her website, “during your treatments you’re really tired, you’re really weak, you don’t really feel like getting up and moving…and it’s a lot of times boring!” Bags of fun are based on the idea that kids are kids…even sick kids!

Tatum with a bag of fun!

Tatum with a bag of fun!

Tatum and her family started giving out the bags in 2008, making this the seventh year they have been supporting local kids with cancer. They give out more than 300 backpacks each year across the state – which sadly indicates how many children are afflicted by cancer each year just in Indiana. The White Party I attended last Saturday – where everyone wears all white to represent purity and freedom from cancer – was the sixth annual version of this event and helps to raise the funds needed for these bags of fun – each of which costs more than $300 to stock.

Tatum-smilingI was able to meet Tatum on Saturday evening and heard both her and her father speak to the group. She’s a really impressive girl, and very articulate for a teen – which you can see from her video on the Tatum’s Bags of Fun home page (and she was only 12 years old when the video was made!) She also does a lot of speaking engagements at schools and clubs and seems to work tirelessly on fundraising efforts (rather than, say, play video games or upload photos to snapchat!). A lot of other folks seem to think she’s impressive too, as indicated by the testimonial videos on the website – including one by John Green, author of The Fault in Our Stars, a wonderful book (and movie) about teens with cancer, that was set in Indianapolis (where John Green was born).

I find Tatum’s work – and her courage – to be an inspiration. Clearly she and her family are making a difference in the lives of children who have to fight a battle no one that young should ever have to. Testimonials on Tatum’s website from these kids and their parents tell the story better than I ever could. Below are a a few excerpts.

  • “As a parent you have touched my heart forever…. I was in tears because someone thought of something to give my son to help get him through this difficult journey he is on. ”
  • “…it was one of the last fun and happy times we had together. I will always remember it, and I thank you. I know that our son does too.”
  • “…What I really want you to know is you made her forget about how scared and sick she was. In that moment that we saw how excited she was, we all forgot. I want you to know that you made a difference in her life. She was dealt a very unfortunate hand but you have made it much, much easier to deal with. For all of us.”

About the Author

Audra is an experienced pharmaceutical marketing professional, aspiring writer, and mother of Elliott, a high-spirited twenty-year old. Frequently tired but never bored, she has a strong interest in public health fostered by numerous years implementing global oncology education programs as well as by her twenty-year crazy (wild? amazing?) adventure in parenting. She recently earned a Masters in Public Health to augment her expertise in health policy and health promotion. Audra is a founding member of the PedSafe Team


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