Cancer changes everything: your priorities, your family, your finances.So Suzanne and Dean Miller discovered in July of 1995 when their bubblysix-year-old daughter, Brittany, was diagnosed with a terminal braintumor. Suzanne had to quit her nursing job to care for her and transportBrittany back and forth to the nearest hospital (an hour each way) fortreatment. Dean worked half days at his new business to maintain incomefor the family while taking care of their 2-year-old, Nicholas. The onlyprogram to offer hope was an experimental one at a Houston hospital. Thehospital had no residential center, so the whole family relocated tohotels nearby during the five weeks of Brittany's treatment. Whileliving at these hotels, the Millers met other families in the samepredicament who were struggling to pay for their families' travel andlodging expenses not covered by insurance. These brutal financialrealities were causing great difficulty at an already-heart-wrenchingjuncture in people's lives.
Back home in Orange County, New York, the local newspaper got word ofBrittany's situation and printed the story. The community respondedgraciously. A Family Fun Day was organized in Brittany's honor, completewith a dance, bake sale, and clowns. Hundreds attended, and thousands ofdollars came in. Perhaps best of all, Brittany, though very weak, had awonderful time and even danced with her father. Enchanted with theyoungster's spirit, the community continued its support up untilBrittany lost her battle on her 7th birthday, July 31, 1996.
Many families, after such a struggle and loss, feel they've had enoughof dealing with cancer and illness, but the Millers felt differently.They immediately knew they had to start a Pediatric Cancer Foundation.
"The community was so supportive in our time of need, we knew we had togive back," explains Dean Miller. The Brittany Miller Foundationprovides financial assistance for lodging and travel expenses incurredby families who have kids with cancer in the Orange County area. They wrote their first check in March 1996, and in three years it has provided over $40,000 in aid to 31 families. The Millers also make themselves personallyavailable to offer emotional and spiritual support.
"My wife and I talk weekly to families in need of support while theirchild is in the treatment phase of cancer. I just recently received aninvitation for the First Communion from a family we helped whosedaughter is in her second year of remission. It is these relationshipsthat grow with the families that make me happy. The Brittany MillerFoundation brings added dignity to our daughter's death. But there isn'ta day that goes by that I don't take strength from Brittany's incrediblespirit and courage. Through this legacy, she's here with us, every day."
The Brittany Miller Foundation is currently assisting 20 families whosechildren are in the treatment stages of cancer. The Foundation holdsfour big events during the year (easily replicable in your area): adinner dance, golf tournament, Christmas toy drive, and the originalFamily Fun Day. For more information on these events and thechildren helped by the Brittany Miller Foundation, visithttp://www.brittanymiller.org. Or you can reach the Foundation at: P.O.Box 3047, Middletown, NY 10940; phone 914-344-3496; fax 914-342-5820.