Cancer survivor helps others through foundation
By Lauren Haggett, University Communications
Kasie Foreman, a junior at the University of West Florida, was diagnosed with thyroid cancer in 2005 when she was 13 years old. While in the hospital during her long battle with cancer, she decided she wanted to help out other kids facing the same challenge. She founded a non-profit organization called Kasie Helpz Kidz (KHK) in 2008.
After a long and grueling surgery, Foreman was treated for the cancer in 2005 and went into remission. Just one year later, the cancer had returned, and Foreman had to endure a second treatment of radioactive iodine. Foreman again went into remission, and she has been cancer free since 2007.
“During the treatments, I was given the largest room in the hospital,” said Foreman. “I had to be completely isolated for eight days, so my room had a guest bedroom for my family and big windows so it felt like they were in the room with me.”
She began volunteering with various organizations when she got out of the hospital, counseling children with cancer around the area as well as at cancer camps in other states. However, Foreman wanted to do more. She decided she wanted to start her own organization and donate teddy bears to kids in the hospital suffering from life threatening illnesses. This is when the idea of Kasie Helpz Kidz began.
“I wanted to help out in my own way since I have had cancer myself,” said Foreman. “Eventually, I would like to start my own camp.”
Foreman began by emailing teddy bear companies to see if any of them were willing to donate some bears for her cause. The Michigan Teddy Bear Co. made Foreman’s dreams a reality when she was greeted at her door-step with seven large boxes full of teddy bears.
“I was totally shocked,” said Foreman. “I received about 200 bears on my front porch.”
She quickly went to work writing out her personal story to attach to the bears and began donating them in many different hospitals around the area. Sarah Norman, a patient going through chemotherapy at Sacred Heart Hospital at the time, received a bear from Foreman. Norman, a junior studying exercise science at UWF, was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML) in 2008, when she was 17 years old. Norman has been in remission since her chemotherapy treatments were completed in July 2008.
“When I was sick in the hospital, Kasie came to meet the children and give them teddy bears,” said Norman. “I received one of Kasie’s bears and contacted her to tell her I wanted to help out with her foundation. That is when our journey began together.”
Since KHK was founded, these two young women have stayed very busy. Aside from going to school full time at UWF, working and managing a social life, they both still make time to deliver bears to children with cancer at local hospitals. In addition, Foreman hopes to expand their services within the next few months and begin offering counseling sessions for the children and their families. She also wants to provide tutoring to the children to help them with their schooling while they are in the hospital.
“Ages 17 to 19 were the hardest for me. I was trying to get into college, and I had to explain why my grades weren’t the greatest from being out of school so much,” said Foreman. “It’s hard, and I want to be able to help kids get through those situations.”
Foreman has plans to travel to different cities and larger hospitals, such as Houston, Texas, to donate bears to children. She also is heavily involved in the Make-A-Wish Foundation fund raiser event that occurs every year in Houston.
“My website for KHK is up and running thanks to Donnie Salter, who donated his time to create it for me for free,” said Foreman. “It has been so awesome how much people have wanted to help.”
“I believe everything Kasie and I do with KHK is positive and inspirational,” said Norman. “You can’t help but love seeing smiles on kids faces when we spend time with them.”
For more information about Kasie Helpz Kidz, visit kasiehelpzkidz.org.