Positively Richmond: Moms team up to raise awareness about childhood cancer in a colorful way

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Callen Tyson has experienced more in his seven years than most people do in a lifetime.

“We just kept describing it like we ran into a brick wall,” remembers his mom Katie. “We knew initially that life as we knew it would never be the same.”

She describes the grief of those early days following his leukemia diagnosis but also strength she gained from the journey. It was a complete story she wanted to share.

During a conversation over coffee during one of Callen’s treatments, Katie and her friend Kristin Seward decided to team up.

“This project was something for me that was completely driven by motherhood,” explains Seward, a well-known Richmond photographer. “This could be your child, you just don’t know.”

Seward went into the hospital to capture young patients, their doctors, nurses and loved ones on good and bad days.

“Their vision, you know, started as this little spark of an idea,” says Lisa Goodwin, the founder of Connor’s Heroes. “They ran with it, and they poured their hearts and souls into this exhibit.”

What is called ‘RVA Cures: Conquering Childhood Cancer’ is on exhibit at the gallery at the University of Richmond Downtown campus. It includes Seward’s photographs and 100 wooden zebrafish painted by local artists and children with cancer.

Katie and Callen Tyson take a break from exhibit preparations to look at the colorful zebrafish.

The zebrafish are a nod to Dr. Seth Corey’s research happening at Virginia Commonwealth University. The genetic makeup of zebrafish is 90 percent similar to humans, and studies on them could hold a pediatric cancer cure.

The research offers hope to families like the Tysons.

“If you survive the treatment now, you have to survive the cure and live your life ever after,” says Katie.

Families dealing with a diagnosis cannot do it alone.

“You can make a difference, one person can make a difference,” Seward says. “Just by showing up to the exhibit you’re making a difference.”

‘RVA Cures: Conquering Childhood Cancer’ opens on September 1, which begins Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. It will be on display at the U of R gallery through January 19, 2018.

All zebrafish on display with be sold or auctioned off to raise money for the Connor’s Heroes Pediatric Cancer Research Endowment Fund.

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