Meg McElwain and her husband, Frank Turner III, established The Mitchell Bays Turner Pediatric Fund in 2012 in honor of their son, Mitchell, who was diagnosed at 3 months old with a rare form of infant acute lymphocytic leukemia. Those who know the family, or followed McElwain’s honest and eloquent online posts about having a seriously ill child, were devastated when Mitchie, as he was affectionately called, died a few weeks after his second birthday on Palm Sunday this year from liver and kidney failure caused by the chemotherapy.
What happened next is a testament to Meg and Frank’s strength, faith and determination to honor Mitchie while helping others. The couple was able to organize a meaningful and powerful benefit for the fund with the inaugural Prescription of Hope luncheon. Held Sept. 29 at Myers Park United Methodist Church, it raised money for the fund that supports families in need that are facing pediatric diagnoses and raises awareness about what these families face.
“No family going through this should ever have to worry about how they’re going to pay the their bills, pay their medical costs or pay for a funeral,” Meg McElwain told the hundreds of guests who attended to show their support and make a donation.
Each year the gala will have a specific focus, and the first one highlighted the work of child life staff in a children’s hospital. We all know how vital nurses are, but I personally did not know about the amazing work of child life staff. These specialists have backgrounds in child development, psychology and counseling – skills they use to give children and their families emotional support and coping strategies.
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WCNC reporter Michelle Boudin was the emcee, and Central Piedmont Community College President Tony Zeiss gave the invocation. Ann and Hao Dang gave a moving tribute to their late son, Carter, and how child life staff helped their family. “It wasn’t fun or happy, but child life helped us get through it,” said Ann Dang.
Kelly Robinson, whose teenage daughter is a pediatric cancer survivor, also spoke. The event ended with child life staff helping McElwain hold up a 45-foot strand of “Beads of Courage” ( www.beadsofcourage.org) that’s a visual reminder of Mitchie’s battle with cancer. Each bead represents milestones in his life and treatment.
McElwain told guests that she’s already thinking about next year’s benefit. “My dreams are bigger than this room,” she said.