Delegate Mark Keam - Virginia's 35th House District

Delegate Keam supports local charity

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Hope Grows in Vienna

Optimist Club of Greater Vienna sponsors 5th Annual Walk for Growing Hope.

By Donna Manz

Thursday, September 30, 2010

[Photos by Donna Manz/The Connection]
Past president of the Optimist Club of Greater Vienna Jim Stivison, Walk for Growing Hope co-chair Sara Byrd Goldberg and Del. Mark Keam (D-35th) find a bit of shade under the tent.


On Sept. 25, from 9 a.m. to 12 noon, the Optimist Club of Greater Vienna sponsored a fundraiser on behalf of Growing Hope, a local charity that provides supportive care to Northern Virginia children with cancer. Anchored near the train station along the W & OD path, the family-oriented fun day featured a "Walk for Growing Hope," free children's activities, a raffle and silent auction with gifts donated by local businesses, and a one-man band playing unfamiliar country-style instruments.

"In the last year, only one new drug was developed for childhood cancer treatment," said past president of the Greater Vienna Optimists, Jim Stivison. "There were eight new drugs for adult cancer treatment. We [Optimists International] adopted childhood cancer support to help these kids."

Between 2006, when the Optimists forged the partnership with Growing Hope, and 2009, the Optimist Club of Greater Vienna raised over $145,000. In the days prior to the 2010 Walk for Hope on Sept. 25, the club had already raised more then $31,000, an amount greater than the total for 2009. By Saturday night, the tally had reached more than $39,000.

THE OPTIMISTS donate 75 percent of the fundraiser's proceeds directly to Growing Hope. The remaining 25 percent goes to the childhood cancer research program at Johns Hopkins University and Medical Center through the channel of the national Optimist club.

"This is one of the best things I've ever done," said Sara Byrd Goldberg, who along with Optimist Bob McCormick, co-chaired the Walk for Growing Hope. "It was energizing, heartwarming.

"The people, the businesses, of Vienna opened their hearts and their wallets for this. They gave so generously."

Byrd Goldberg emphasized that contributions to their program are always welcome.

Del. Mark Keam (D-35), Sen. Chap Peterson (D-34), and Del. Barbara Comstock (R-34), stopped by to support the fundraiser, as did Town Council members Laurie Cole and Laurie Di Rocco. "This event focuses on the health of children, who really are our future," said Keam, who represents Vienna and is the father of two young children. "It's also an example of how much Vienna is a wonderful town to live in and raise families. I really value the spirit of this community."

Growing Hope was founded in 1998 by three parents whose children were cancer patients. What they found, personally, was a lack of non-medical support for children undergoing treatment and their families. Growing Hope set out to change that.

Statistically, 1 in 300 children will be diagnosed with cancer by the time they are 20 years old.

Jill and Brian Carroll are the parents of two-and-a-half year old twin daughters, Evelyn [Evy] and Stella. Evy has a rare type of highly aggressive brain cancer called AT/RT. The smiling little girl began her 15th round of chemotherapy on Sept. 27. After this round, Evy has two rounds remaining. She has also had 28 radiation treatments since her brain cancer was discovered when the child suffered a stroke at 22 months old.

Evy, if not for the floppy hat and nasal tubing, looked like every other young child at the Optimists' Growing Hope family day. The stroke had caused weakness in her hands and legs so dad held her throughout. When the event closed down at noon, Evy got her wish.

Into an empty moonbounce, Brian Carroll brought his twin daughters. Grasping Evy's hands, he bounced her up and down as she giggled and Stella jumped.

"Growing Hope has helped us," said Jill Carroll. "We've been to their picnics, to King's Dominion. They gave us some support last Christmas."

While the Carrolls acknowledge that AT/RT usually has a low survival rate, Evy's prognosis looks good. And the parents are optimistic.

ONE HUNDRED PERCENT of the monies donated to Growing Hope is used directly for the cancer-stricken children and their families. It is an all-volunteer organization with no overhead or salaries. The Optimist Club, said Lisa Tignor, Growing Hope volunteer and mother of two children diagnosed with leukemia, provides resources that help the nonprofit offer social, financial and educational support to Northern Virginia families.

In 2010, Growing Hope gave out 13 scholarships of $1,000 each to a graduating senior, a childhood cancer survivor, for college or vocational school expenses. Tignor, a "Walk for Growing Hope" volunteer on Saturday who lives in Dumfries, watched her children undergo treatment as youngsters. Today, those children are 17 and 25 years old.

"They're doing great," Tignor said. And if you're an Optimist — clubwise or affected parent — that's the goal.

To learn more about the Optimist Club of Greater Vienna and its childhood cancer support, go to or e-mail Sara Byrd Goldberg at

E-mail for more information on the supports Growing Hope offers.

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