"This handmade Valentine’s Day card from Daniela hangs on our kitchen bulletin board next to the refrigerator, where it will forever remain. Daniela made this for me when she was fighting cancer for the fourth time when she was eight years old. Neither of us knew that this card would be the last because two weeks later, she passed away.
Daniela expressed herself by making holiday cards and art projects. I still find little drawings or notes that she wrote in drawers around the house. I would have loved to see what other pieces she would have created if she only had the chance. Our mission at the Daniela Conte Foundation is to give that chance to children battling pediatric cancer – to ensure there are so many more sweet cards, notes, and drawings to put on the refrigerator. We’re fighting for love, on Valentine’s Day and every day.
Although she was exhausted from fighting her cancer, Daniela found the strength to create this sweet Valentine’s Day note for me at school. The care she took in creating this piece tells more about her loving heart and fighting spirit more than words can say. She chose paper in her favorite color, purple, and folded it in half to cut out a perfect heart. I know most of us can remember the wonder we felt when we learned we could make a perfectly symmetrical heart by doing that. She added sparkling red hearts and a puppy sticker at the top – because in a child’s mind, there’s little else more comforting than puppies.
Every tiny detail of this card held meaning, and that is the capacity for love that exists in a child. Every child.
Valentine’s Day calls on all of us to embrace the spirit of love. In my opinion, there is no purer form of love than that which pours from a child’s innocent heart. I remember being in the pediatric cancer ward in February: there were red and pink mylar balloons in every corridor, and fluffy teddy bears holding bright hearts in the gift shop. The decorations were a lift to all of our spirits. But the moment Daniela handed me that card with her biggest, brightest smile, my heart filled in a way that no balloons, flowers, or candy could ever replicate.
Every day – including today – 47 children in the United States, just like my daughter Daniela, will be diagnosed with pediatric cancer. It’s a diagnosis on the rise, yet only four percent of the federal cancer research budget goes to pediatric cancer research. This means that treatment options pale in comparison to those for adult cancers. The road for families battling pediatric cancer will be long and difficult, but through it all, I know that each child will be unwavering in the love they show to their families and to the world. I’ve seen it with my own eyes, and I pray that you will never have to see it with yours. But rather than wish that statistics were different, we can work together to create loving, positive change.
You have the ability to return a little bit of the love these courageous children give - by fighting for them. We can come together to show that we care by spreading awareness about the prevalence of this disease. If you feel a tugging in your heart to show these children that their love is returned, please sign up for our upcoming blood drive and 5k.”
Written by: Katia Conte, Daniela's Mom & DCF President & Co-Founder