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January: Brianna Gansert, Junior at Mainland High School, Linwood, NJ

In September of 2014, Brianna was a 14 year old freshman in high school just four days into the new school year when she was diagnosed with Bilineage Leukemia. For the next year she spent more time in the hospital than out because of reactions she was having to the treatment. She suffered a lung infection that had her on antibiotics for 9 months, pericardial effusion, high bilirubin, elevated kidney function, a very bad case of mucositis, neuropathy, she was fed through an NG tube for a year, she was hospitalized for a nutritional crisis, she had a septic hip and avascular necrosis which eventually led to a hip replacement, ankle surgery and a knee replacement.

Through all of it Brianna has been able to maintain a 3.7 GPA in school and when she returned to school as a sophomore she was nominated by her teachers as Student of the Month. She will be graduating with her class in 2018. Brianna is also very involved in school clubs such as the Key Club, Interact Club, Hoofprints (the school newspaper), and she created and is president of Club Cure- a club that raises awareness about cancer. And if she wasn’t busy enough, because she will never be able to play sports again, Brianna has taken on the role of manager in Field Hockey. Brianna is also heavily involved in the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society of NJ and has been named their Honored Hero in 2014, Skipper of the Year in 2015, Honored Hero (again) in 2016 and she is currently campaigning to be Student of the Year in 2017 with the goal to raise $50K for cancer research.

Having cancer has changed her life and taught her to expect the unexpected and live in the moment. She says she hopes to see the day that cancer is cured!

Information provided by her mother, Jennifer Gansert.

December: Matthew Cruz, 4 years old, Philadelphia, PA

Matthew has big brown eyes, a loud mouth, fierce personality and his shark teeth smile is the sunshine in his mother’s morning. He loves to cuddle and enjoys buttering you up to get what he wants. He is a four year old boy that suffers perfectly from middle child syndrome.  He tries to out due his big brother and steals attention from his baby sister. Matthew also suffers from Nodular Lymphocyte Predominant Hodgkin Lymphoma.  

On a very hot Thursday afternoon in July of 2015, Matthew’s mother was trying to get him in the bath. He told his mother that he could not get undressed because his arm hadn’t worked in days. After undressing him, she noticed something sticking out of his arm pit. She rushed him to St. Christopher’s Hospital. That evening changed their lives forever. Matthew was put through all types of scans, tests, and blood work to determine that he had cancer. He got started on 4 rounds of chemotherapy right away.

As of now, Matthew is healed and cancer free! He tells his mother that he wants to be a police officer when he grows up so he can eat all the donuts he wants. His mother believes he was given another chance at life because he has a purpose. We can’t wait to see him grow and become successful!

Information provided by his mother, Marilyn Rodriguez.

November: Reilly Shimko, Kindergartner at Peters Elementary School, Walnutport, PA

Reilly just turned 6 years old! He is a very outgoing boy who loves to get dirty, ride bikes and play football. Shortly after his 4th birthday he was complaining that his legs hurt. His parents rushed him to the ER and within 5 hours they were being told that their son had cancer.

Reilly was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL). He has received chemotherapy, spinal taps and bone marrow checks. The early part of his life may have been a little rough but he is an inspiration to his little sister and parents. They just hope and pray for him to survive this cancer and have an amazing future.

Please follow Prayers for Reilly on Facebook to send your thoughts and prayers.

Information provided by his parents, Joe & Natasha.

October: Orland Cortes, Kindergartner at Taylor Bayard School, Philadelphia, PA

Orland is a brave 5 year old boy who lives and goes to school in the Philadelphia area. Like most little boys, he is very active, plays a lot and knows how to have fun. His favorite sport is football and loves to play video games on his Playstation. Orland also likes to read and listen to stories, watch movies and cartoons. This is important for him to rest and recover during his battle with cancer.

In the Spring of 2015, at the young age of 3, Orland was diagnosed with Neuroblastoma, Stage IV. He is being treated at St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children where the staff has become family. His treatment has included chemotherapy, surgery, stem cell transplants, radiation and currently immunotherapy. This experience has made Orland mature and become more compassionate for others. As a family, they have learned to be more positive and called on their faith to keep them strong. The Cortes family has prayers on their side. They wish to see their son grow up as a “normal kid” to help others in the future.

Information provided by his parents, Maria & Jorge.

September: Lukas Kusters, 4th Grader at Forest Oak Elementary, Wilmington, DE

Boys, boys & more boys! Lukas’s mother sure has her hands full with 5 energetic sons. Lukas Kuster is one of the younger siblings at the age of 9 and entering the 4th grade this year. Lukas is a very active and athletic “gentle giant”. He loves playing football and is a huge Philadelphia Eagles fan! You can probably guess his favorite video game is Madden. On the football field, Lukas earned the nickname “The Dutch Destroyer”. He would do anything for anyone. Lukas thrives in any situation he is put in. Currently, he is fighting for his life.

This past Spring, Lukas got sick and was taken to the hospital where they discovered a large tumor. Lukas has been diagnosed with Rhabdomyosarcoma and is being treated at the Nemours Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders at Nemours/Alfred I. DuPont Hospital for Children in Wilmington, DE. He has experienced many unexpected road blocks with three months in the hospital and intubated for 25 of those days. Lukas is currently undergoing chemotherapy and will follow up with radiation. This experience has taught him to be grateful and thankful for every day. Lukas realizes his own strength and never loses it. We hope his strengths take him right to the NFL!

To read more about Lukas and his journey, please visit

Information provided by his mother, Rebecca Kusters.

August: Hayden Weiss, Pre-K, Garnet Valley, PA

Hayden is a fun-loving four year old who likes to play dress up. She loves going to school and playing with her friends and family. Hayden will be going into pre-K this fall. She is a very caring and compassionate girl. Chick-Fil-A is her favorite place to eat.

On the morning of July 4th last year, Hayden and her family were out shopping at the mall. Light happened to catch her eye at just the right angle and her parents noticed a strange haze in her pupil. They immediately took her to the emergency room where an ultrasound discovered a tumor in her eye. Hayden was diagnosed with Retinoblastoma. Her right eye was removed and she spent 6 months in CHOP & Wills Eye receiving some of the most harsh chemotherapy drugs. Also, she underwent 25 rounds of radiation to her brain. Through this journey, her parents have taught her that she can do anything she puts her mind to! Hayden loves to cook with her mom and says that someday she wants to open her own restaurant.

Since Hayden was ill last summer, she is making up for it by learning how to swim and spending time outside and in the pool. She has fought extremely hard and is an inspiration to us all!

Information provided by her parents, Andrew & Helen Weiss.

July: Lilly Ibbotson, 1 year old from Hatboro, PA

This little princess will be two years old in November and like most toddlers she loves Elmo and Minnie Mouse. Lilly has a lot of energy that she likes to exhaust swimming or running around with her big brother, Tyler, who is 13.

Lilly has barely lived long enough to learn how to ride a bike, go to the movies or start school. She will be well educated in the medical field before she ever hits pre-school. Back in March of this year, Lilly was rushed to the ER, given an X-ray where a mass was detected in her chest. She is being treated with chemotherapy at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. When Lilly is old enough to understand, her mother will be able to tell her brave battle story. Her hope is that Lilly will grow up and want to go into the medical field and help cure childhood cancer. For now, she looks forward to the summer and playing games with her big brother. Lilly loves her supportive family.

Cancer picked the wrong princess!

Information provided by her mother, Nicole Ibbotson.

June: Juliet Galton, Pediatric Oncology Social Worker, Charlotte, NC

Ms. Galton is a pizza loving mama to her amazing cat (who has an identity crisis and acts more like a dog). She is quite the world traveler as she has lived in Spain for two years and Mexico for five! Her love for cultures introduced her to Latin dancing. Juliet was born and raised in South Carolina attending Clemson University for her degree in Psychology and following up with her Masters in Social Work from the University of South Carolina. Work brought her to North Carolina 3.5 years ago. She still visits her family in Myrtle Beach at least once a month but her time is devoted to taking care of families that are experiencing the most challenging times in their lives.

Juliet’s position at the hospital is crucial to families whether it be providing a listening ear or connecting them to financial resources. She is there to help with the logistics of caring for a child going through treatment. She can direct the families to organizations that help with transportation, respite vacations, wigs and counseling among many other things. She feels privileged to be able to encourage families and give them hope.

“Hope is important because it can make the present moment less difficult to bear. If we believe that tomorrow will be better, we can bear a hardship today” –Thich Nhat Hanh



1st Annual Golf Tournament in Charlotte

We kicked off our 1st Annual Golf Tournament with beautiful weather, delicious food and great conversation. For some, that would be enough, but our goal is for everyone to walk away from the event having a great understanding of Michael’s Way and our mission to assist Pediatric Oncology families at the Levine Children’s Hospital. We are honored and humbled by the support we received. Thanks to sponsors, participants and a very generous hole in one prize, we raised over $60,000! That money will help a lot of families stay on their feet when it feels like their ground has dropped from beneath them.

Thank you to the hardworking staff at Myers Park Country Club for hosting us and to all of our wonderful sponsors! See you on Monday, May 8, 2017.

What goes around comes around

Every now and then we receive a generous donation from someone we don’t know so I reach out and ask how they heard of Michael’s Way. This donation came with a letter and he mentioned the kind people who get credit for this contribution. Mr. Kirlin gave me permission to share his letter which you can read below.

Dear Ashley Thompson,

I am sending you this $200 donation to your amazing charity. I am a manager at the Pepsi facility in Philadelphia and recently received an award from my company. Along with the award I was given a $200 donation to the charity of my choice. Your foundation was highly recommended by my cousin, Jeanine. Jeanine’s daughter, Kaylee (my cousin), recently battled a form of pediatric cancer and is alive and well. Jeanine told me Linda Giunta was extremely supportive to Kaylee and her whole family during their trying times. Jeanine spoke the world about your organization and after my own research I just wanted to say thank you for all you do. Your foundation is amazing and extremely inspiring. If there is ever a way that myself and the Pepsi family can help you, please let us know. We do a lot of charity work in the community and are always doing what we can to help out. Again, I want to say thank you and please accept this donation. 


Chris Kirlin

Thank you to Chris and his family for the support. Thank you to Linda Giunta for being our biggest cheerleader!

P.S. Let’s give a round of applause to PEPSI for promoting this kind of philanthropy.