Philipsburg

On Centre | Around Philipsburg: Whiteheads hope to help others fighting cancer

Emily Whitehead, center, and her parents, Kari and Tom Whitehead, pictured here with actor Kyle MacLachlan at the 2013 Stand Up to Cancer press conference, have launched the Emily Whitehead Foundation. The nonprofit organization aims to direct funding toward research on better treatment options for pediatric cancer patients.
Emily Whitehead, center, and her parents, Kari and Tom Whitehead, pictured here with actor Kyle MacLachlan at the 2013 Stand Up to Cancer press conference, have launched the Emily Whitehead Foundation. The nonprofit organization aims to direct funding toward research on better treatment options for pediatric cancer patients. AP file photo

It has been four years and eight months since a 5-year-old bundle of purple-wearing, butterfly-loving fun from Philipsburg was diagnosed with cancer.

It has been two years and seven months since the little girl who inspired a web of hopes and prayers around the county, the state and the Internet became the first kid in the world to fight one deadly disease with another, battling acute lymphocytic leukemia with the unlikely ally of HIV in her modified T-cells.

It was a grand experiment that worked in miraculous fashion, and today that little girl is a cancer-free poster child for never giving up, and that is how the Emily Whitehead Foundation was born.

The family’s nonprofit foundation was started to “direct funding to medical researchers to develop better treatment options and ultimately a cure for pediatric cancer. The foundation will promote pediatric cancer awareness and hopes to provide support for families facing the disease.”

The Whiteheads were the focus of a lot of community support as Emily was being treated. Her Philipsburg-Osceola classmates, the patrons of the YMCA and people throughout the Moshannon Valley tried to make it possible for the family to focus on getting their daughter healthy again.

“We want Emily to be able to tell her grandkids that she was the beginning of the end of cancer. Emily does not want to lose any more friends to cancer. We believe in a cure and if we work together we can put an end to this terrible disease,” said dad and foundation president Tom in a release.

With Penn State’s IFC/Panhellenic Dance Marathon just around the corner, Emily’s significance in the fight against cancer — and the importance of standing strong with families still in the trenches — becomes more and more important. Her amazing struggle has been spotlighted by Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and Katie Couric. According to the foundation, the treatment trial “has continued to achieve unprecedented results and provide hope to many other families facing the disease.”

It has been more than two years since Emily won her fight. The foundation makes sure that others fighting never fight alone.

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