On June 16, 2000 Mark was diagnosed with stage 4 neuroblastoma, a rare pediatric cancer. Over the next six years he endured three surgeries, stem cell replacement, and endless rounds of chemo and radiation therapy, as well as countless blood and platelet transfusions, but spent every day making the most of the time he had, with his positive attitude being the driving force in his survival.After spending almostevery holiday in the fall and winter of 2000 in the hospital, including Christmas, and being faced the sadness of those also hospitalized, he took it upon himself every Christmas after that to collect toys, movies, and video games and bring them to those hospitalized over the holidays.
Mark knew firsthand that some days being an oncology patient was just awful. Receiving treatments, having blood drawn, and being poked and prodded was hard enough at age 12, 13, 14, etc., but most of Mark’s friends on the oncology floor were younger than him. He felt kids should get something more than a sticker for being a good patient, so he established the Treasure Chest Program on the oncology floor. Through the program, patients having a bad day can select a toy from the “treasure chest” to help ease their pain.Mark completed Junior High, a major accomplishment when you consider he was receiving chemotherapy the entire time. Moved and inspired by Mark’s good deeds, attitude and perseverance, Larry Wiers, Superintendent of Troy Schools, nominated Mark for the Red Cross Hometown Hero Award, which Mark received in 2005.Mark was honored by the Board of Directors of Children’s Memorial Hospital with their highest award, the George D. Kennedy Leadership Award. He was recognized for the difference he made at the hospital. Without any corporate sponsorship, his toy drive in 2005 was the largest individual toy drive in Children’s Memorial Hospital history.
Mark often acted as an ambassador for the hospital, meeting with the likes of Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley, Lance Armstrong, and Dick Jauron, just to name a few. In 2004, WGN radio’s Steve Cochran named Mark his “Kid of the Week.” Also in 2004, WLS-TV’s Harry Porterfield proclaimed Mark to be “Someone You Should Know.”
Mark taught all those around him that even in the most difficult of circumstances, you can find time to care for others. He showed us that it’s not the length of time we are here that matters, but what we do with the time we have.
So Mark’s family, old friends and some new friends are working to form this foundation in his honor. “Make Your Mark,” the Mark Staehely Pediatric Cancer Foundation, is born out of requests Mark made of us in the final weeks of his life.
Those who were touched by Mark’s caring and giving heart have been forever changed. We are trying to learn from Mark’s example and do the most with the time we have. This foundation is our labor of love for our son, brother, and friend: Mark Staehely.