I’m originally from Switzerland. My family is from the Engadine Valley, high up in the Swiss Alps.
Over 25 years ago I was hiking to the famous Segantini Hut in the Engadine Valley, when I happened upon a family doing the same. As we were passing each-other back and forth I realized to my amazement that they spoke a mix of English (New York-style) and Swiss-German.
Wow! I HAD to meet them.
So, I made sure I had a chance to start a conversation: I wanted to know more.
Turns out the mother’s family was from Pontresina, a small town at the foot of that mountain and not 10 minutes away from my village. AND we all live in New York. Serendipity!
The Manley’s are not your average family.
The parents, Maya and Edward Manley nearly lost their daughter to a brain tumor when she was in her early teens.
After their daughter’s recovery, Maya and Edward made it their life’s mission to help families who are facing the terror of pediatric cancer through starting the Making Headway Foundation.
Making Headway Foundation provides care and comfort for children with brain and spinal cord tumors while funding medical research geared to better treatments and a cure.
Within months of meeting on the mountain in Switzerland, Maya invited me to join them for their Making Headway Family Day at their home in Westchester.
Imagine 400 people: Volunteers, hospital staff, and kids with their entire family, all having a rare care-free and amazing day playing, eating, sharing stories, and being entertained!
I was part of the kitchen-crew and as I was chopping my 20th onion and serving all the home-cooked dishes, I knew I wanted to help beyond this one day. I wanted to stay involved with this incredible organization.
Several years later, I had the privilege to film a video for Making Headway at the NYU Langone Medical Center.
In preparation and during the shoot I spent a few days at the hospital talking to staff, volunteers, patients, and their families.
I had the opportunity to see treatment rooms, the nurse’s station, playrooms, music, yoga, and massage rooms, and the library, all staffed and funded by the Making Headway Foundation.
But it was in talking to doctors, research fellows, nurses, and highly trained therapists, that for the first time I really understood the breadth and depth of what the Making Headway Foundation has made possible through their funding.
To see the foundation’s mission statement for the first time in action was a humbling experience.
As I interviewed some of the children and their families, parents told me that children look forward to their cancer treatments so they can go to the hospital playroom, see the clown, visit with the fairy, and most importantly play with Maya!
I consider the Manleys to be my American family. It is a privilege to have witnessed what they created with the Making Headway Foundation. I cherish the opportunity to support the Making Headway Foundation, and I invite you to join me in making a big difference where it really, really counts.