Building Flowers to Weed Out Cancer

I was only 6 years old, and it was hard to think about such things. I had never heard the word before, and I had no idea what it meant. When she lost her hair, and we saw she was in pain, my sister and I felt so bad. Many times after her chemo, we couldn’t be near her, because we were told she was ‘neutropenic’. Mommy explained that meant she could easily get an infection. So because of this, my sister and I would stand across the street with the other neighborhood kids and play games back and forth. Everyday we would see them driving by, heading to Vanderbilt for her chemo. I can’t imagine having to fight for so long, and face that everyday.

The years went by, we thought she was getting better, but then things changed for the worse. I often remember my mommy and daddy crying and praying with her mommy. It just wasn’t fair to see her mommy in such pain, it was then I knew something had to be done! I told my mommy for Christmas that year, that I wanted two things, an American Girl Doll and to raise money to help my friend. I decided I wanted to do a lemonade stand, but mommy explained lemonade stands were usually for summer so we decided hot chocolate and cookies would be a better choice. We baked over 750 cookies!

For my homeschooling project that week, my mommy and I put together a flyer with details of my cookie sale. After it was completed, she took me to the office store and told the lady that her six year old wanted to talk with the general manager. I told him my plan and asked him if he would help me by donating copies of my flyer. He kindly donated 100 colored and 200 black and white copies. My sister, my mommy and I took all 300 flyers and placed them in our subdivision mailboxes. Believe it or not, one of our flyers ended up in a Channel 4 newscasters mailbox and next thing we knew, we were being interviewed in our home, and then at our cookie booth for a local story. Channel 2 also took our story.

As we were setting up our little booth near our subdivision pool, on that cold mid-December day, mommy began to wonder if anyone was even going to come. Within moments, cars began driving in before we even officially started our sale and never stopped until we closed three hours later. We were so excited! So many people in the community came out to support me that day including teachers, students,

my friends, neighbors and many police officers, who all had either received one of my flyers or saw me on the news. One man quietly walked up, asked for one cookie, and placed a $1000 check in our container. Although now I understand the value of $1000 for only one cookie, at six I didn’t think anything of it. My mommy told me that she remembered how surprised I would be when someone would hand me a $100 and not take any cookies, but didn’t think anything of it when they handed me $100 or more and would take three or four cookies.

I have memories of my little sister sitting in our warm van peeking out the window, she helped me pack cookies in the baggies for a little while, but she was only three! Seven hundred and fifty cookies later, and ten gallons of hot chocolate we raised over $3000 in three hours for my friend. We gave the money to her mommy, who had been fighting this disease with her every step of the way, every day! Soon after, we heard that she was getting worse. They had tried everything they could. Savannah Swandal gained her angel wings March 21, 2011. She was 11 years old about to turn 12. Now I am 11, about to turn 12. She was my neighbor and friend. Savannah couldn’t live her 2nd Act, so WE can live it for her and for all those who aren’t able to live their 2nd act. They are in a better place, but we can make THIS place better.

My Mommy and Daddy helped us start a company to remember the angels that we have lost. We call it AnaVeya Creations, “Building Flowers to Weed out Cancer.” When my little brother was two, he called me ‘Ana’ and my sister ‘Veya’ so we just put it together, AnaVeya. We custom design flower headbands, clips, feathers, shabby chic flowers, and make all-natural chapstick. My mommy sets up the vendor booths throughout the year and my sister, my mommy and I run them, occasionally daddy has helped us too. We have meet so many amazing people and many have come to our booth just to tell us their cancer story. We spent much of our time trying to hold back tears from all the stories both heartbreaking and joyful. We give 20% of our proceeds to families dealing with cancer, and we are on our 7th donation. We have raised $5000 for families with cancer. It all started with Savannah Swandal, followed by Patrick Froehling, from Mt.Juliet TN, Taylor Hall from Utah, Paul Maka, and Brooke Healey, from NJ, Bishop Mikaelian, from Mt. Juliet TN and the list will go on. After Savannah, our first official AnaVeya donation was to the Froehling family, who had just lost their two-year-old little boy to brain and spinal cancer a week before. We had the opportunity to meet this family and I told them what we did, and handed them $29.20. We made all of Patrick’s siblings a gift from AnaVeya too. I remember everyone was crying, what an emotional moment. Again, I didn’t quite understand the value of this gift, it was a great deal of money to me, mommy explained to me that it didn’t matter how much I gave, it was all about my heart.

IF WE can do it, YOU can do it! Let’s make cancer a thing of the past! Let’s overcome this monster, and turn the hate for it, into action, and the action into love. We can overcome!