The March 27 presenter for the meeting of the Rotary Club of Heber Springs was Kara Moorehead, Executive Director of Fight Like a Kid, a nonprofit organization she began in 2013 with the goal of raising awareness of childhood cancer.

Kara and her husband Brian have three children. When she was pregnant with her youngest, they were told that the baby might have spina bifida as scans had shown some abnormalities at her tail bone. They knew this child was going to be special, so they named her Mati, which Kara said means “Gift from God.” When she was born, Mati was not diagnosed with spina bifida, but in fact sacrococcygeal teratoma – a type of cancer affecting the tailbone. Mati had her first surgery on day one to remove the cancer and began a 27-dose chemotherapy series at one month old. Generally, this cancer responds well to treatment and is curable with the treatment they had undergone, so they were shocked when Mati had a recurrence of the same cancer at six months old. Mati underwent a second surgery and another round of 27 doses of chemotherapy. Today, Mati is a sassy, healthy, six-year-old girl.

Going through this trial with her own daughter taught Kara more than she ever wanted to know about childhood cancers, like the fact that childhood cancer receives only 4% of the annual budget from the National Cancer Institute. “God and our church picked us up and carried us through,” she said. She knew that living through this cancer with Mati had a greater purpose in her life than for her work to stop once Mati was cured. So, in 2013 she founded Fight Like a Kid.

Fight Like a Kid’s first event was a 5K run/walk that was hosted as a part of the Ozark Trail Festival, and in the first three years, they raised more than $20,000 for childhood cancer research. Through legislation supported by Senator Missy Irvin, the organization was also able to create special license plates available at the DMV. All proceeds from the sale of these special plates go to the Arkansas Children’s Hospital for childhood cancer research. In addition to the 5K and the license plate sales, Fight Like a Kid hosts a barrel race each spring which has raised over $75,000 in the last three years. They also sponsor the Big Dam Bridge lighting in Little Rock each September, which is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month.

Kara realized through her own daughter’s battle with cancer how much the disease affects not only the child diagnosed, but the entire family, and so Fight Like a Kid also works hard to raise money each year for the Make a Wish Foundation, which grants wishes to any child who has been diagnosed with a life-threatening illness. So far, they have been able to grant wishes for nine children. Each wish granted costs $8,000, so they are always in need of funds to assist with granting more wishes. Kara said that there are three children currently waiting for their wishes to be granted.

In addition to working toward granting more wishes, Fight Like a Kid is developing what Kara called an iPad program, which seeks to buy iPads for the children with cancer. Noting that appointments mean long waits in hospitals with nothing to do many times, iPads will help the children pass the time while they undergo treatment.

Finally, the organization is developing a scholarship fund. Families get so overwhelmed during their child’s illness that many times, everything comes to a halt – careers, higher education aspirations, vacations and more. Everything revolves around the child. And once that child is cured, families begin to pick up the pieces and rebuild. Kara said that she hopes the scholarships will help mothers, or siblings of these children to attain higher education that may have been closed off to them, while they seek to rebuild, saying, “Who knows? Maybe one of the siblings will want to go into nursing” because of the experience.  For more information about Fight Like a Kid, visit their Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/fightlikeakidarkansas/

Rotarians are “People of Action” who are making a difference locally, nationally and internationally.  The Object of Rotary is "to encourage and foster the ideal of service as a basis of worthy enterprise." The Rotary Club of Heber Springs meets each Tuesday at noon on the ASU-Heber Springs Campus. For more information about the Rotary Club of Heber Springs, please visit our Facebook page at facebook.com/TheRotaryClubofHeberSpringsAR.