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PHOENIXVILLE — About a year ago, thousands of people were following the story of a little girl fighting cancer.
The Phoenixville community rallied for Gabby Vogel, a 5-year-old who was diagnosed with a form of aggressive brain cancer, Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma.
Gabby lost her fight with cancer on Sept. 11, 2011, just a short time after being diagnosed. A celebration of life was held at Reeves Park on Oct. 9, 2011, the day that would have been her sixth birthday.
Since then, John and Carolynn Vogel haved moved to Delaware with their two other daughters, Madison and Katie, but their hearts and minds are still in Phoenixville.
The Vogels have worked to start the Get Well Gabby Foundation that raises money for pediatric cancer research and provides help to other families that have children battling cancer.
After Gabby passed on, the family was in limbo and in a “fog,” but the goal was always to start a foundation, said John Vogel.
Living without Gabby hasn’t been easy for the family. Vogel said Christmas was one of the most difficult times.
“There was the excitement of opening gifts and there used to be three shouting, ‘Look what I got,’” Vogel said. “Now there are only two.”
The family doesn’t feel complete without Gabby, he said.
Vogel said people may be wondering why his family started a foundation.
“We want people to understand this is not for my family,” Vogel said. “We’re raising money for other people’s families.”
He said he and his wife are still supporting their own daughters who are mourning their sister, but other children are still sick.
“Get Well Gabby doesn’t define Gabriella Martha Vogel,” he said. “It’s a mission. It couldn’t cure Gabby. In the future it’s going to make a dent for someone else’s child or sibling.”
The foundation is not just focusing on supporting research for the type of cancer Gabby had, but all types up pediatric brain cancer.
Vogel said he feels that more research needs to be conducted on pediatric cancer.
He said in 2010, a large cancer spent $952 million on cancer research and only $11 million was used for pediatric cancer research.
“Katie said it best: ‘Without kids, there can’t be any grown ups,’” Vogel said.
He said he doesn’t want funding to be taken away from other cancer research, but if the methods to fight the cancers are working, to spend more money on childhood cancer research.
John and Carolynn serve on the board of the foundation. Other members are professionals that have worked in event promotions and other fields that make them knowledgeable for the foundation, Vogel said. Carolynn drives to Phoenixville for board meetings.
Katie and Maddison also play a role in the foundation. They write stories or send gifts to children who are battling cancer, Vogel said.
He said that he and Carolynn tell the girls they don’t have to participate in the foundation if they don’t want to. The girls insist they want to be involved.
Many events for the Get Well Gabby Foundation are happening in Phoenixville. Other events are taking place in Delaware.
“We consider Phoenixville our home,” Vogel said. “We just had to get away for a while.”
Recently, a softball tournament was held at the Kimberton Youth Athletic League fields. Vogel said there was a good turnout for it and activities were available for children.
The foundation also donated 200 Blue Rocks minor league baseball tickets for children at A.I. Dupont and The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.
Kym Steager is organizing the second annual Going the Distance for Gabby 5K Run/Walk. The public is invited to participate in the event at 8 a.m. on Sept. 22 at The Valley Forge Christian Conference Center on Route 23.
To sign up visit www.brynmawrrunning.com or www.getwellgabby.org.
Steager said now that the foundation is formed, she and other coordinators of the event are hoping they can “raise awareness and money to go toward Childhood Cancer Research and also help other families going through what the Vogels went through.”
Another balloon release will take place from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. on Oct. 9 which would be Gabby’s seventh birthday. Vogel said it will be similar to last year with activities for children and ice cream.
He said the release is being held to promote the foundation and to provide entertainment for children.
“We just want kids to enjoy being kids,” Vogel said.
For more information about Get Well Gabby Foundation events, visit www.getwellgabby.org.
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