Issue 17-119 — February 4, 2017
Starshine Galaxy Foundation is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to help sustain the memories of children who have died. To this end, we support the Tributes to Lost Children Community Page on Facebook as a place to post, share, and comment on activities to honor our departed children and to celebrate their lives. This biweekly Tributes Digest presents highlights from this community page along with other items of interest. Please feel free to forward this on to others you know who might be interested, and direct any comments, questions, or concerns to

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Katie Had a Very Special Gift for Living Life to the Fullest (January 23) – Katie Kirlin was 10 years old when she experienced a backache that led to the discovery of a cancerous tumor on her spine. While doctors successfully removed the tumor, it had already damaged her spine, leaving Katie in a wheelchair. As Katie focused on rehabilitation, her parents, Joseph and Roseann Kirlin heard that the North American Wheelchair Athletic Association had a ‘junior’ program designed for young people. It wasn’t long before Katie was participating in wheelchair sports. “She put her heart and soul into practicing and competing,” her parents say. By all measures, Katie made more than the best of her situation: she soared above it. But then the cancer returned, and this time, it was inoperable – Katie passed away just after her 12th birthday. The Kirlins established the Katie Kirlin Fund in 1990, to help other young wheelchair athletes and to remember Katie’s achievements and honor her life.
Sam Would be Very Proud of His Legacy (February 1) – Natalie Cook and Neill Davis describe their son, Sam, as a “fiercely loyal young man with an ability to make friends… Forever the entertainer,” they say, “Sam made the most of his life, almost like he knew he only had a short time.” At the age of 17, Sam tragically died after being the victim of an unprovoked one-punch assault during a friend’s birthday party. Sam’s parents have said that their son’s death “is part of an alarming trend in our society around alcohol- and drug-fueled violence,” and they want it to stop. That’s why they established an organization dedicated to doing just that: the Sammy D Foundation aims to prevent drug- and alcohol-related youth violence by spreading the anti-violence message and providing positive role models for young people.
Nikko’s Father Remembers Him by Sharing His Story (February 2) – On February 2nd, 2016, Nicholas Purden’s college roommates found him in his bed, lifeless. Nikko, as he was known, hadn’t been well for a couple of days, and although his friends were worried about him, they never imagined the gravity of his situation. But Nikko had type 1 diabetes, and he had died of high blood sugar levels. Nikko’s dad, Joe Purden, says that in hindsight, it seems that “Nicholas [had been functioning] at a level that suited him while maintaining very poor control and exposing himself to the risk of ketoacidosis. In his 18-year-old mind, high blood sugar led to long-term consequences, and he’d get his act together down the road.” But Nikko never had that chance, and that’s why the Purdens want to share his story — so that other parents of teens with type 1 diabetes can understand the dangers of complacency. “Don’t let what’s left unsaid cause the end of the story,” Joe says.
Alex Dreamed Big and Accomplished More (January 24) – Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation is dedicated to funding cutting-edge research to find new treatments and cures for pediatric cancer. The organization also wants to improve the lives of children with cancer by easing families’ financial burdens and making sure they can get their kids to treatment, which is often far away. It all started with one little girl: Alexandra “Alex” Scott. Shortly before her first birthday, Alex was diagnosed with neuroblastoma. Doctors told her parents, Liz and Jay Scott, that if Alex beat the cancer, she probably wouldn’t walk again. But Alex was a “determined, courageous, confident and inspiring child with big dreams …” When she was four, she opened her first lemonade stand, raising $2,000 for “her hospital.” By the time of her death at the age of 8, Alex had raised more than $1 million to help find a cure for the disease that took her life.
Kelly Anne Dolan Memorial Fund Has Been Helping Families For 40 Years (January 26) – Kelly Anne Dolan was two years old when doctors diagnosed her with aplastic anemia, a rare disorder in which the body stops producing enough new blood cells. As Kelly Anne’s parents, Joe and Peggy Dolan, put it, the diagnosis introduced them to “a world of trauma, emergency trips, hospitalizations, separation, spiraling expenses, physical and emotional exhaustion, and great sadness.” Kelly Anne was ill for five years before her condition evolved into a rare form of leukemia. She passed away a few months later, just shy of her seventh birthday. During their daughter’s long illness, the Dolans witnessed firsthand the devastating effects that a child’s long-term illness can have on a family’s finances. Soon after losing their daughter, they established the Kelly Anne Dolan Memorial Fund to help families caring for children with serious illnesses, disabilities, and injuries. Since it began 40 years ago, the organization has eased the financial burden of more than 27,000 families.

Tina’s Life was a Gift That Her Parents Continue to Share (January 25) – In the fall of 2004, Tina Gambino was a senior in high school. Life was good – the 17-year-old was part of a loving family and a tight-knit community, and she was looking forward to college. But tragically, after an accident in a soccer game, Tina died over the Thanksgiving holiday. Tina’s parents, Tony and Janice Gambino, remember Tina as “kind, generous and good-natured,” and “infused with the spirit of giving.” They started the Tina Shaina Gambino Memorial Foundation to honor their daughter’s memory and ensure that Tina’s special gifts continue to enrich the community. Every year, the organization awards its REFLECTIONS scholarship to a graduating senior of Tina’s high school. It also holds an annual 5K run/walk to help fund the scholarship and support the Organ Donor Network. The Gambinos began a new Thanksgiving tradition, too, bringing food to families and staff in the pediatric intensive care unit of the hospital where Tina was treated before she passed away.
Ben Will Always Be Remembered as a True Hero (February 3) – On July 6, 2014, Ben Carlson was doing what he loved: patrolling the coast of Newport Beach, California. Ben was a highly skilled lifeguard with 15 years of experience, and he’d been keeping swimmers safe in the ocean since he was 17. That Sunday, Ben swam to rescue a man stuck in churning waters. Just as he gave the swimmer his buoy, a powerful wave sent both men below the surface. The swimmer soon resurfaced, but Ben drowned and was found after a three-hour search. Following Ben’s untimely and heroic death at the age of 32, his father, Chris Carlson, got together with a group of Ben’s friends and fellow lifeguards to establish the Ben Carlson Memorial and Scholarship Foundation. The organization is dedicated to honoring Ben’s legacy “through the execution of positive, meaningful works in his memory…” by providing substantial student scholarships to well-deserving candidates, and by promoting ocean water safety.
Sammy Showed Us How to Make Each Day Count (January 27) – When Chad and Sherlyn Scott welcomed their beautiful baby girl, Samantha Rose, into the world on February 28th, 2011, it was a miracle in every sense. That’s because little Sammy had been given a devastating diagnosis in utero – she had Trisomy 18, a rare genetic disorder that’s usually fatal. The Scotts were told to expect that Sammy would be stillborn. When Sammy arrived “pink, beautiful and mad because the medical staff was messing with her,” her parents say, “we were so thankful and knew we had been blessed with the gift of time.” Sammy went beyond all initial expectations, and her family focused on making each day count. After she died at 10 months old, the Scotts established the sMiles 4 Sammy Foundation, Inc. to encourage people to see that every day is a gift and to provide encouragement and support to families of medically fragile children. They do their work in honor of Sammy, who defied the odds and “impacted more lives in 10 months than many people do in years, and encouraged us to make a difference right where we are.”

The Kindness Project: A Quiet and Powerful Legacy for Cheyenne (January 31) – Dr. Joanne Cacciatore is a professor and researcher at Arizona State University, a counselor specializing in helping those who’ve experienced traumatic loss, and the founder and president of the MISS Foundation, an international non-profit organization dedicated to helping bereaved parents. She’s also the mother of five — “four who walk,” she says, “and one who soars.” Her daughter, Cheyenne Cacciatore, died of unknown causes during birth in 1994. Two years later, ‘Dr. Jo’ started the Kindness Project to “create a quiet legacy” for Cheyenne. She wanted people to know that Cheyenne existed and, more importantly, she wanted to help change others’ lives because of her presence on this earth. The idea is to perform random acts of kindness in your community, leaving behind a little card so that the person receiving the kindness knows that someone’s life continues to matter.
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The complete netbook version of Tributes to Lost Children – a snapshot of how 147 families have honored their children who have passed away – is publicly available for FREE. Click on the cover image above to navigate to this powerful, heart-warming compilation of tribute stories.
Based on results of the Tributes Survey, three general motivations anchor bereaved families in their tribute activities. See the organizing Tributes Framework that serves as the backbone of the new book Tributes to Lost Children.
Copyright © 2017 Starshine Galaxy Foundation, All rights reserved.

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