Supporting Mikey, Jen and Sarah

UPDATE March 14, 2011.

“It is with great sadness that Kajsa and I have to inform you that our dear, sweet Maddie has passed away and is now an angel in Heaven. She died at 9 pm on Sunday evening, March 13, 2011. Kajsa sang her the night night songs she has sung to her since birth and kissed her on the cheek, and Maddie took her last breath. We were right beside her. She experienced no pain and no fear.”  Collie James

I encourage you friends to donate by clicking the link below in Maddies Memory.


I was struggling with what to title this post since all of these people have touched my heart and have made tears streak down my cheeks. Their common denominator; Pediatric Cancer.

I’ll start with Mikey, then talk about Jen from Tiny Orange and wrap it up with Sarah’s story. This is a longish post so grab a soda and a tissue box, see you at the bottom.

Chapter One – Mikey and Pediatric Cancer Research Foundation

This is my friend’s son Mikey.


The photo was taken close to his first birthday. Dang, eye’s don’t get much bluer? Mikey’s dispositions since birth has been incredible. He was one of those babies everyone marveled over; never cried, always peaceful and content. His sweet laid back disposition and charming blue eyes even had some large name brands (cough Baby GAP) use him for their ad campaigns.  At this Mexican Fiesta his twin brother, Mom Cortney and Dad Mike were unaware of what was about to unfold for their family. Shortly after this celebration, by sheer coincidence, Mikey’s pediatrician felt a small lump in Mikey’s tummy and she wanted it looked into.

It is every parent’s worst nightmare to hear the word cancer and their child’s name mentioned in the same sentence. Mikey was diagnosed with a Wilms tumor, a rare form of kidney cancer, on his left kidney.

mikey chemo

A team of doctors went to work to save our little man and we prayed.

Concerned and anxious we also felt driven to help. Help our dear friends. Help the family. Help other Children with Pediatric Caner. Enter the Pediatric Cancer Research Foundation {PCRF}.  Each year the organization holds a Cinco de Mayo Reaching for the Cure Run/Walk in Irvine to raise money for the Foundation. We learned of this organization when one of Mikey’s aunts circled the wagons to form Team Mikey’s Marauders. Family and friends were brought together to run as Team in the annual half-marathon to support pediatric cancer research on behalf of Mikey and his family.  On Cinco De Mayo 2010, with running shoes, red team t-shirts and Mexican sombreros we hit the ground running. Some of us ran the half marathon while the little people walked the 1k.  Afterwards we partied into the evening celebrating the day in TRUE Vanis style.

Mikey's Marauder2010-2826

On this day over 5,400 runners and walkers supported the cause, raising more than $300,000 to fund children’s cancer research. Proudly, our group contributed a total of $33,000. It was a memorable day, but also bitter sweet as you can imagine.

vanis 2010 xmas 

Now in 2011, almost a year later, I’m excited to say Mikey is doing extremely well. After kidney surgery and months of chemotherapy and radiation, he is thriving and catching up on his weight. A thick head of hair has returned along with long eyelashes to frame those corn flower blue eyes.  Amazingly, after his last rounds of tests, his little body has been deemed cancer free. His disposition through all of this has never waivered. He is still the sweet easy going toddler we have always known. Bless his heart.

To donate or join Team Mikey’s Marauders  click HERE. We are running again this year!

Chapter Two – Tiny Oranges Making a Difference

Now that I’ve shared my personal reasons why I support Pediatric Cancer Research and Irvine’s Cinco De Mayo Run/walk, you can only imagine when Jen, from Tiny Oranges, contacted me. She asked if I would help support her efforts in raising money for this cause. I was honored. Last Saturday, happily and enthusiastically, I grabbed my camera and was off to capture a gorgeous day at TEK Salon in Newport Beach.


For a little back story here, last New Years Eve for one of Jen’s resolutions, she wrote: organize a charity project through Tiny Oranges. Jen had felt compelled to support Pediatric Cancer Research after learning about Kristin’s amazing story.


You see, Kristin is a childhood cancer survivor.  She shared her story as a guest author on Tiny Oranges last October. You can read the story HERE.

Jen just needed to find an event to tie everything together. So after running the Long Beach Half Marathon, (go Jen!) she found a flyer for the Cinco de Mayo Reaching for the Cure Run/Walk supporting the Pediatric Cancer Research Fund and Team Tiny Oranges was born.

The “Love is in the Hair” event is just one of many events Team Tiny Orange has put together to support this great cause. Tera Rea, stylishist beyond words, put this day together, below is a glimpse.

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Here is Jen from Tiny Oranges with the days mastermind  Tera Rae Stephens from TEK Salon

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Beautiful party decorum was the talk of the salon! They were provided by Sharon from the fabulous Cupcakes and Cutlery.  The treats which I photographed, then joyfully sampled, were from Lauren of Nothing Bundt Cakes of Costa Mesa and Melanie of Sensitive Sweets. Both Delicious.

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Here are a few more captures. Mio getting a blow out by the talented stylist Heidi. Then Jen in her adorable orange sweater/scarf combo with fellow team member Shanna from My Favorite Everything.


Rounding out the help that day was my pal, who also carries a Canon Lens, Lindsey from The Modchik.

Last Saturday, with Jen’s ‘cruise director Julie’ skills along with Tera and her team’s blow drying magic, TEK Salon assisted countless folks to get their prudy-on and raised over $3,000. A big thanks and group hug to all of you who donated and participated. It felt stupendous to come together to support the Pediatric Cancer Research Fund. Wahoo.

To view more photos from the event, please click HERE.  Furthermore, if you live in the Orange County area and are in the market for a new stylist, consider TEK Salon.  The Salon features uber talented stylists, a lovely new owner, Debra and a make up artist extraordinaire to make you feel glamorous. Just ask Shanna! 

Great Job TEAM TINY ORANGES. Bravo. Standing Ovation.

You can be included too! Be sure to follow Tiny Oranges.  The Team will be doing more events as well as running on May 1st, I hope to see you there with them!

To donate or join Team Tiny Orange click HERE

CHAPTER THREE – In Need of a Miracle

To finish off this post I would like to introduce you to Madeline James. She needs your prayers and positive thoughts. I learned of this darling little girl from my fellow Orange County Blogger, the fabulous Sarah from Whoorl and Hair Thursday. Maddie is part of Sarah’s extended family. She was recently diagnosed with an inoperable, malignant brain tumor called DIPG.

MJAMES ped cancer

You can read more about her touching story HERE. Now is a really good time to grab that tissue box.

Jen Tera Sarah

Photo Credit Sarah James at Hair Thursday

Sarah is also a team member of Tiny Oranges. In her post about Maddie, her words resonated. They made me recall how I felt when I originally learned about Mikey.

“absolutely floored by this diagnosis. Shock, disbelief, devastation, and complete anguish are a few words that come to mind. Constant worry over what this is doing to Maddie’s family”

“I can’t imagine what they are going through, I truly can’t. And if I try, I immediately feel like weeping”

“I think of Maddie’s cousins. Maddie’s aunt and uncles. Maddie’s grandparents and great-grandparents. Maddie’s neighbors… friends.”

“At this point in time, it’s so incredibly difficult to find any shred of a silver lining in all of this. Honestly, I’m not sure I ever will, but I do know that if I don’t try to help in any and every way possible, I’ll implode.”

To read all of Sarah poignant words please click HERE.

I pray and ask all of you to do the same for the entire James family. I yearn to see both Mikey and Maddie attend Prom and laugh as teenagers at all of us.

It would be a welcomed miracle.

Everyone needs support, please consider supporting these three special friends by clicking on one of the many links above.

Much love to all of you today friends,



  1. Thank you so much for spreading the word about Maddie. She needs all the prayers, love and support we all can muster. xoxo

  2. Got so caught up in wanting to thank you for this post that I forgot to say that I am SO happy that Mikey is cancer-free. Puts a huge smile on my face! 🙂

  3. Oh Kathleen, what a beautiful, beautiful post. I am so happy to hear that Mikey is now cancer-free and I so touched by your involvement in this cause. I am also so happy you shared Maddie’s story – as she is one of the many children inspiring Team Tiny Oranges to FIGHT to raise all we can to find a cure for pediatric cancer.

    It really meant a lot to me that you and Lindsey so enthusiastically agreed to come and participate and photograph our event. It was an honor to be blessed with your presence and talent. The pictures are all phenomenal. I am so grateful you captured so many memories of such an amazing day.

    I can’t wait to give you a high five when I see you on May 1st!

    Lots of love!

  4. It is such a tradgedy that all of us know a child(ren) with cancer. We have to STOP it! Meanwhile, these little heros are amazing lessons of love and strength. Everyone should check out their local Relay for Life – it is a blast! Our family has been walking together for the last 5 years and it is awesome. Thanks for all you do, Kathleen!

  5. Thanks Ally, Jen and Sarah. Your comments made my day. Happy Friday to all of you.

  6. You are amazing Kathleen! Thank you for posting this! Mikey would not have received the treatment he did without the recent findings in research for pediatric cancers! A HUGE reminder why it is so important to support these foundations fighting childhood cancers! Thank you for continuing to send your support, love, and prayers that Mikey remains cancer free! We will also be adding adorable little Maddie to our daily prayers!

    • Hi. I read Madison’s story and I know the Williford family Layla’s mommy and daddy. I would love to get some Madison beads to you. Please check out our wietbse and let us know if you are interested. We never met Madison but we love her and miss her and we are so sorry for your loss. I will be wearing TEAM MADISON beads at Relay For Life tonight. Rest in peace beautiful girl.

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