A five foot tall singing and dancing Santa is making his rounds around town, courtesy of the Super Hero Addy Foundation. #igotsanta is a whimsical six-week event that moves Santa throughout the community at the request of the people who donate.
There are six corporate sponsors and six teams competing to raise the most money in their week. Homestead Mortgage Loans, MGM Builders, Maine Elevator Specialists, Yankee Ford, Naples Marina and Hancock Lumber – offering varying levels of matching funds. Other local businesses, including Pat’s Pizza, Rustlers and Dunkin Donuts have donated items for gift baskets, which will be presented to members of the winning team.
Each week Santa begins his journey with a new team captain. When a donation is made the donor can text to say where Santa should go next, said Jessica Madsen. The Super Hero Addy Foundation was set up to support Madsen and her family while her daughter, Adalynn (Addy) underwent treatment for MDS (myelodysplastic syndrome), a rare form of leukemia that affects only one to four children in a million.
Addy’s road wasn’t easy. She and Jessica lived in a Boston Hospital for months, while Addy first had chemotherapy and then a stem cell transplant. The stem cell donor was found through Be the Match, and the procedure was completed in November of 2015. A year later, Addy and her family were able to meet the donor, a 26-year-old man from Arkansas. Though he’d been registered since he was 18, he had never gotten a call before.
“He got called for Addy, and he didn’t hesitate one bit,” said Jessica.
In January of 2016, Addy’s family received the news they were waiting for – there was no evidence of her disease in her system. Officially in remission, Addy now receives routine follow ups every three to six months. “Stem cell transplants are difficult for sure, but she came through it so well,” Jessica said. “She never got sick, she was never tired, she got out of bed every day and played and had fun.”
Now, the family is motivated to give back. The #igotsanta fundraiser is just one way they are raising money for the foundation. At the end of his third week, the traveling Santa had already raised $4,000. Working with the Maine Children’s Cancer Program, the Madsens have “adopted” a family with a young son in the hospital for Christmas.
The majority of the money raised, Jessica said, will be used to set up a fund through the Maine Children’s Cancer Program to support stem cell transplant patients. Because this procedure can’t be done in Maine, the families must travel to Boston for treatment. “We know what kind of strain that puts on a family financially,” said Jessica, who took an unpaid leave of absence to be with her daughter in Boston.
The support they had made all the difference. “It allowed me to be really present with Addy. I could pay attention to what the doctors were saying, and I could focus on her treatment and have fun with her and enjoy all that time we had together even though we were in the hospital, because I wasn’t worried about money, and finances and what was going on back in Maine. We could put all our energy into beating cancer,” she said.
Jessica said, “We would love to get to a place as a foundation where every family that goes to stem cell transplant is guaranteed a certain amount of money from the foundation,” she added. “Even though we did our treatment in Boston our heart was always in Maine – our family and support system was in Maine.” Jessica said they want to send patients and their families off to Boston with an uplifting story of a child who had been there and beat it, as well as a little financial support, to let them know someone is there for them.
“The Super Hero Addy foundation won’t cure cancer, but as much as the medicine is essential to cure cancer, I also think that hope and love and support are just as essential,” she said.
The foundation has another fundraiser, Christmas Trees for a Cause, last weekend. The event featured appearances by Santa and Elsa (Miss Maine, Marybeth Noonan) and raised $1,400 for the Maine Children’s Cancer Program. To follow Santa in his travels or find out more information, visit the Super Hero Addy Facebook page.