New York City Football Club is a proud partner of Hope & Heroes, which funds the life-saving work on childhood cancer and blood disorders at Columbia University Medical Center—including cutting-edge research, support for families, and care that always puts children first to help local children and families fighting cancer.
We spoke to Katie Leiby of Hope & Heroes to find out more about their work and the partnership with NYCFC. This is her story…
Hope and Heroes is a nonprofit organization that is actually a part of Columbia University Irving Medical Center. We raise funds for the division of the pediatric cancer and blood disorder program here at Columbia. We fund patient care, research, comprehensive care and research, psychosocial services, educational assistance, integrative medicine, and survivor wellness and care. All of those things are to ensure that we’re able to provide the best for our patients.
Ironically, last fall I was diagnosed with early staged Hodgkins Lymphoma. I started chemo in December and by February, my cancerous mass was gone. I had to continue with treatment for another four months. Because the cancer was caught early and my body responded so quickly, my oncologist feels I am least likely to relapse. I’m still doing everything I can to stay in that category. I had the unique situation of being a cancer patient, while also being here supporting children with cancer. The kids I see on this floor every day were all the strength that I needed. None of those kids look sad, or upset. They’re living life and doing their thing, and you realize if a kid can do it any of the rest of us can.
Our partnership with NYCFC started with the idea that we would get a patient and their family to come to every home game and highlight their story, and through their story highlight Hope and Heroes. With something like this, you worry if fans are going to be interested. From the feedback they’ve gotten, it is something that fans have grown to expect at their games. They recognize that this is a part of what the NYCFC community does, honoring a child with cancer or blood disorders. It’s gotten to be such a big part of it, that it’s moved from being right before the game to halftime. I really feel like everyone is invested. It’s not just NYCFC staff that is invested, but the patients are invested, and the fans are invested. Everyone that’s involved, wants this partnership and that is something that is very special about the work that we do together.
I always think one thing that makes Pediatric Cancer Awareness Month a bit more special to me is kids don’t have a spokesperson. They don’t have someone who necessarily has gone through what they’ve gone through. Because of that I think it’s so important to take time this month to do everything we can to use this opportunity to raise awareness. These kids are doing so much and these doctors and nurses are working so hard. Compared to what they all do, what we’re doing to raise funds and awareness is the least we can do so that we can do the best for the kids that are here today and do better for the ones who come tomorrow.