Both My Friend Linkin and the Swifty Foundation have been youth led and both have the mission of helping children with cancer. My Friend Linkin with their books and donations to pediatric cancer research, Swifty through post-mortem tissue donation and funding research. It’s kids helping kids with cancer. And they do it with such compassion and love.
Swifty was started by Michael Gustafson before his death at age 15 from brain cancer. Knowing he was going to die, Michael struggled with what meaning his life would have if he was to die so young. Mikey thought he would grow up to be a scientist and when that dream was taken away, he decided to donate his “body” to science so they could use his tissue to find better treatments for children with brain cancer. He called this idea his “Master Plan”. This plan gave meaning to his all-too-short life and allowed him to surrender to the dying process because his life would have meaning. He would be helping future children through his post-mortem donation, and that gave him peace.
Michael’s Master Plan became Swifty’s Master Plan because through donating Michael’s tissue we discovered how important post-mortem tissue is for research. We also discovered there were no systems in place to make such donations possible. With the help of other families who lost children to brain cancer, some amazing researchers and doctors, Swifty developed Gift from a Child (GFAC), GFAC is a national program whose aim is to make it possible for a child anywhere in the country to donate post-mortem brain tissue. Many families have discovered that donating this tissue and helping the next child diagnosed is a first step in healing their grief. It is comforting to know their child lives on in labs around the country. Their cell lines are being used in research studies to find better treatments for other children.
One of the children who donated tissue through GFAC was a friend of My Friend LInkin, Mackenzie Clyde. When Mackenzie did not survive her cancer, My Friend Linkin made a $5,000 donation to support GFAC’s work. In thank you, Swifty’s youth board sent a thank you video encouraging My Friend Linkin’s youth board in their work for children with cancer. Swifty is based near Chicago, so we shipped some Lou Malnati’s pizza along with the video and they hosted a little thank you pizza party! We are grateful for the awareness MFL is raising for children with cancer and look forward to working with them, so no other family has to suffer the unimaginable loss of a child to cancer.