Becoming a published writer and earning a college degree are
worthy goals for anyone, but Gabriella Miller accomplished both before her 11th
birthday. She also raised more than $275,000 for the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
She kept a positive spirit and worked to help others last year as she fought an inoperable brain tumor that ultimately took her life in October. On Saturday, Jan. 25, the Cracking the Cure Gala at the National Conference Center will celebrate her life while raising awareness about childhood cancer, and money for research and treatment.
“People don’t know how underfunded childhood cancer is,” said Ellyn Miller, Gabriella’s mother. “We need to raise awareness.”
On Monday, Jan. 13, Gabriella would have turned 11. She had talked to her family about the presents she might receive, but also of her wishes if she didn’t see the day.
“Two days before Gabriella died she said that if she didn’t make it, she wanted us to have an event to raise funds for our foundation, Smashing Walnuts, so that we will help find a cure for childhood cancer,” Ellyn Miller said. “She wanted to do something.”
Smashing Walnuts was created as a reflection of the walnuts the family would crush with a frying pan as a symbolic gesture, “smashing” Gabriella’s walnut-sized tumor.
Her mother said she wanted a black, white and pink gala, and so it will be: the Cracking the Cure Gala is planned for Jan. 25. It’s really two galas in one. One will be for children 9 and older, and the other for adults. There will be DJs, dancing, a cookie-making station and arts and crafts.
“We’ll have a station where the kids will be able to create cards to give to kids who are being treated or have cancer,” Miller said. She also said Gabriella had signed a copy of her book, Beamer Learns About Cancer by Cindy Chambers, which will be auctioned during the event. Gabriella authored a special writing in the book.
There will also be a table where kids can think up ways to raise awareness about the prevalence of childhood cancer. The numbers are quite surprising. According to the information provide by Smashing Walnuts:
- Each day, 7 kids die from cancer.
- 1 in 330 children will be diagnosed with cancer before they reach the age of 20.
- Cancer kills more children than any other disease in the U.S., more than asthma, cystic fibrosis, diabetes, and Pediatric AIDS combined.
- Pediatric brain tumors aren’t like those in adults. Children’s brain tumors require specific research and different treatments.
- 72 percent of young people diagnosed with a brain tumor are younger than age 15.
Pointing to a statistic that 80 percent of children diagnosed with cancer survive more than five years, Miller that that means 20 percent do not make it that long.
“That’s not something you brag about,” she said. “That’s something we need to change.”
Miller referenced Loudoun’s experience with childhood cancer, just in recent years – including Taylor Love, Declan Carmical, Gavin Rupp and Mathias Giordano – and said the community’s education has made a difference. Some children in other communities suffer alienation, she said.
“I hear all the time stories about how children are treated by other kids and even adults,” Miller said. “Gabriella never had that. I believe with my whole heart it’s because we educated people. Loudoun County is great. Now we need to start educating the rest of the state, the rest of the country and go on to educate the rest of the world.”
The gala starts at 7 p.m. Jan. 25. Tickets cost $75 for adults, $40 for youth. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org for questions and sponsorship opportunities.
GET TICKETS TO THE CRACKING THE CURE GALA (or just donate to Smashing Walnuts)