About Tea-For-Three and Eliza

Tea-For-Three has evolved as both a charitable and therapeutic crusade for me. Through this event, I hope to help raise money for the Make-A-Wish Foundation, a tremendous organization that gives hope and happiness to families dealing with their worst nightmare. But there is more . . . by being involved in this event, I am able to give personal thanks for my daughter’s own good health and honor the journey she had to endure.

Let me tell you a little bit about my very special daughter Eliza. Eliza was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia when she was just 4½. After 2½ years of treatment, she finally finished chemotherapy in May 2008. This past May, she celebrated her 1st anniversary off of treatment and her 8th birthday and is doing terrific!

Her journey began in metropolitan Washington D.C. in October of 2005 when Eliza started complaining of periodic, but intense bouts of ankle pain. At first, our doctors said it was likely “growing pains” and then even “an attempt at getting attention,” but when Eliza’s complaints continued, we persisted. We finally found a doctor who took Eliza’s complaints seriously. Rounds of x-rays, MRIs, and bone scans disclosed nothing and Eliza’s blood work showed only minor irregularities. In a search for answers, we were finally referred to an oncologist along with several other specialists. On Friday, January 13, 2006, Eliza, then 4½, was diagnosed with leukemia.

Deemed a “slow responder,” Eliza endured an initial year of intensive, aggressive chemotherapy before undergoing an almost 18-month maintenance phase that ended in May 2008. Throughout her treatment, Eliza had a catheter implanted in her body to permit easier and frequent intravenous medical treatment. She had many lengthy hospital stays (up to 1 month at a time), numerous bone marrow aspirations and biopsies, frequent spinal taps, and multiple blood, platelet, and plasma transfusions. She also experienced many unpleasant and scary side-effects of treatment – some temporary (such as the loss of her trademark red curly hair), some scary (such as seizures), and others possibly permanent (such as bone death (or avascular necrosis), which caused a bone in her ankle to collapse).

It was because of this diagnosis and during this time that we were first introduced to the Make-A-Wish Foundation. In the summer of 2007, Make-A-Wish granted Eliza’s wish to be in an American Girl movie when she was cast as an extra in “Kit Kittredge: An American Girl,” released in theatres last summer. It was a tremendous experience for Eliza as well as our whole family (see “Eliza’s Wish” for more details and see the photos below). Eliza won hearts all around. She appeared in several scenes and even had a close up with Julia Ormond. On top of that, we were able to attend the Hollywood premiere last summer! It was the experience of a lifetime and a dream that Eliza and our family want to keep alive for other children struggling with life-threatening illnesses.

To thank Make-A-Wish for making Eliza’s dreams come true and to honor the many other children waiting for their wishes to be granted, Tea-For-Three was born. Last summer, I organized the first annual “An Afternoon Tea-for-Three at the Movies!” highlighting the premier of Eliza’s movie followed by a mother-daughter-doll tea, raffle, and silent auction. We raised over $12,000 (enough to grant two children’s wishes)! Thanks to the generosity of so many in our community, we incurred almost no costs and were able to turn over practically everything we made directly to Make-A-Wish. We were also delighted to have designed an event for children and their families. We had been told that most Make-A-Wish fundraisers are actually only for adults, so were thrilled to have an event that would not only raise money but awareness among other kids!

Today, I am happy to report that Eliza is over 1 year removed from her ordeal and is thriving. Eliza, now in 3rd grade, was accepted into her school’s talent development program despite having missed her entire kindergarten year and a substantial part of 1st grade. She is taking acting and voice classes, has been able to resume dance class, and is a Brownie with the Girl Scouts. Eliza has done some modeling, has won awards for her acting, and is represented by talent agencies in Charlotte and New York. And thanks to the Make-A-Wish Foundation, Eliza has even been able to add the title of “movie star” to her achievements. No matter what adventure she undertakes, Eliza embraces the spirit of life and enjoys every moment. Eliza is a survivor and our family’s special hero.

Though our family has been dealt a difficult hand, we are fortunate that our story is filled with hope and optimism. It is thus with great emotion and gratitude that I thank you for helping to raise money so that kids like Eliza can enjoy a break from the dread of their ordeal to live out their dreams! There is no doubt that the funds raised through Tea-For-Three will make a difference in children’s lives. On behalf of Eliza and the countless number of children world-wide waiting for their wishes to be granted, I thank you for your support and generosity.

Kari

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