Editorial: Mikey did it his way
Our business is stories. We hear them, we tell them. Each week we hear stories about amazing things people are doing in this area. But rarely do we hear a story that touches us the way that Mikey Friedman's story did.
Diagnosed with a rare cancer at age 15, Mikey's odds of survival were slim. He spent the next four years in and out of hospitals receiving treatment for desmoplastic small round cell tumor (DSRCT), a rare and aggressive pediatric cancer. He spent countless hours getting radiation and chemotherapy, having surgeries and receiving a stem cell transplant.
There wasn't much for him to do during all this time, he realized. He found himself sitting around feeling detached from the world and his friends, with little to do but reflect on his own situation.
So this Joel Barlow valedictorian-turned-Harvard-student used that time to problem-solve. Then he noticed that the other kids in the hospital were going through the exact same thing: a miserable combination of sickness, stress and boredom. He found a way to give kids an escape from their daily treatments.
When the Make-a-Wish Foundation asked Mikey what his wish was, he responded that his wish was to help other sick kids. With his wish, he bought hours of entertainment for other kids in similar situations to his own. Through video games, iPods, laptops and a huge variety of other electronics, he gave other kids a way to get their minds off their treatments.
At the same time, he also gave them a way to connect to others. Now they could e-mail their friends from their hospital beds or their homes, and find ways to interact with the outside world.
Mikey called his mission Mikey's Way, and had as many Mikey's Way Days as funding would allow. Even when suffering a relapse, he continued collecting donations, buying gifts and bringing other kids a little respite -- and happiness.
In follow-up questionnaires, kids said they were using Mikey's gifts three to five hours a day.
Talking with the Fairfield Citizen, Mikey's dad, Les Friedman, posed an important question -- one that lies at the heart of everything Mikey hoped to achieve: "What were they doing before that?"
Many people in a situation like Mikey's -- battling painful and potentially deadly treatments, all in hopes of defeating the disease -- might justifiably spend a lot of time thinking about their own situation. Not Mikey. He saw a way to make a significant difference in the lives of kids just like him.
Mikey died in October 2008. It was devastating to all who knew him. But it was his legacy that gave his friends and family a way to hold on to a part of Mikey.
Today they continue to carry out Mikey's wishes with the Mikey's Way Foundation, based in Westport. His friends and relatives who work for this nonprofit organization have given up their previous professions and have devoted their lives to fulfilling Mikey's greatest wish.
Please consider donating to this worthy cause today. This group is willing to host as many Mikey's Way Days as funds will allow. You can visit www.mikeys
way.org or call 203-221-2754 for more information.
In Les Friedman's words: "[For kids suffering from cancer], cancer research and cancer cure is tomorrow. ... What about these kids today?"