Joy Cruse 11

Color Me Green 5 + 10k Benefiting TeamConnor Foundation

“They can put a man on the moon mommy, but they can’t cure cancer?” – Connor Cruse

This is one of the last statements that a brave, and joyful little four-year-old boy, Connor Cruse told his Mother, Joy Cruse while he was battling a rare childhood cancer. Such a sensible statement with a profound thought behind it.

In 2005, four-year-old Connor Cruse went to the doctor with a simple stomach ache and fever that would be diagnosed as a cancer in his bones, bone marrow and adrenal glands, that was diagnosed with Stage 4 Neuroblastoma. The prognosis for this type of childhood cancer is not good. It has around a 30% survival rate. Joy and her family would travel all across the United States, including New York, Boston and Houston to seek proper treatment plans. When Connor turned eight years old in 2009, having battled this disease for four years, developed a second cancer from the radiation treatments he endured. He would later pass away that same year.

Like so many parents with children who are faced with childhood cancer, Joy mentioned she was lost. What to do? Where to begin? How to even handle it? She mentioned, when learning of Connor’s diagnosis, it felt as though she was on Mars. She stated, “You feel like you’re on an island all by yourself because other parents aren’t dealing with what you are going through.”

But like many difficult events in life, Joy, her husband Tait, and Connor’s siblings, Mackenzie, Carson, Mason, Tyler and Emma had to just push through and deal with what was in front of them. She would quickly learn how resilient her son Connor was, as well as the kids surrounding him in the hospital going through some of the same treatments. Joy said that even though Connor had the worst of everything, he would find ways to keep laughing, play games and have an overall joyful attitude. He was grateful, thankful, and full of joy to those around him. The inspiration and strength he showed her continues to stay with her each day.

Upon Connor being diagnosed, Joy immediately wanted to learn more about Connor’s prognosis, disease and treatment options. As she started researching, she was shocked to learn many things about childhood cancer. The first being, that it is in fact the number one killer in children. Most people don’t know this because our federal government gives a dismal 3% of cancer funding towards the childhood cancer sector. Even though one out of three hundred children by the time they reach the age of eighteen are projected to be diagnosed with some form of cancer, the lack of funding we currently have is shocking. With many other types of cancers, be it Breast, Testicular, etc., there is often a spokesperson, such as Lance Armstrong or Susan. B. Komen who gives a voice and in turn raises awareness that ultimately facilitate more research funding. Unfortunately, with childhood cancers, there really isn’t a specified spokesperson.

This is where Joy and the rest of the Cruse family, in 2008, started TeamConnor Childhood Cancer Foundation. To date, Joy mentioned that TeamConnor has raised over two million dollars towards Childhood Cancer Research all across the United States. TeamConnor holds several fundraising events each year to help raise funding. These include a 5K/10K run, a Golf Tournament that Dallas Business Journal ranked #6 in all DFW golf tournaments, and an annual clay shooting event.

The largest family held event, and the one just around the corner is the Color Me Green 5k, 10k, Caterpillar Dash, and Health Fest. This will be held during Connor’s birthday weekend, the first week of October. October 7, 2017 at Frisco Square to be exact. Grab your tennis shoes, all your friends and family as you each become Green Ambassadors to raise awareness and funds towards childhood cancer! Each year there is a balloon drop that takes place to honor the children currently battling cancer, as well as any of the survivors and those like Connor, who passed away from the disease. The Health Fair was added last year and has different health vendors and organizations. Bounce houses, balloon artists, and food vendors will also be alongside for the family filled event.

The highlight of the Color Me Green Family Day is hearing from the honorary spokesperson to show all the participants that these are the kids you’re running for. And of course, Connor’s memory is always represented in some way. Joy shared with me that one year, participants surprised her on what was Connor’s 16th birthday by singing him “Happy birthday” during the balloon drop. Another year, a poem was read about Connor. To participate in this year’s run or to donate visit, colormegreen5k.org

Joy mentioned, she has been shocked at the outpouring of generosity people have provided throughout the years. Whether it is people such as Channel 4’s Steve Eager participating in not only the annual golf tournament, but other events as well, or children around the community wanting to get involved to help where they can. There are several Frisco schools that have been involved in “Coins For Kids” – where kids will collect coins to fund childhood cancer research. The runners who participate in Color Me Green continues to grow each year. Joy has other parents come up to her to tell their story and how hearing hers made them feel less alone in their process. Joy mentioned that this, along with her own faith is what helps keep her going. Joy’s wish is that no other parent has to endure losing a child to this awful disease.

The year that little Connor passed away from his battle, he was too ill to attend the beneficiary dinner that he was asked to be the spokesperson for, so he was videotaped to make his statements instead. When asked the question, “If you had any advice to other kids going through cancer, what would you tell them?” Connor replied, “Have courage, and believe in Jesus.” When Joy asked him just months before his passing, “Connor if you had one wish, what would it be?” Connor said, “That another kid won’t have to go through what I’ve gone through. If we can put a man on the moon Mommy, why can’t we cure cancer?”

Perhaps one of the most famous quotes in our history, “One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” -Neil Armstrong

I think it’s safe to say that little Connor’s legacy left one small step in our fight towards childhood cancer and it is up to us to keep that going for all of mankind just like Connor wanted.