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McKinley Moore rides a scooter around the driveway as her mother, Karen, watches.
East County Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2015 3 years ago

Loving McKinley

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Mom's Group rallies behind friend and member, Karen Moore.
by: Pam Eubanks Senior Editor

MILL CREEK — Since late May, Karen Moore has been living out one of every mom’s worst fears. 

Her 2-year-old daughter, McKinley, is battling leukemia.

Although the diagnosis has meant quitting her job, long days of treatment at All Children’s Hospital and dealing with the consequences of chemotherapy, steroids and other procedures, Moore hasn’t been alone.

Members of the Lakewood Ranch Mom’s Group have been supplying meals about three times a week to her family since learning about McKinley’s diagnosis.

“It’s been such a huge blessing,” Moore said, noting the meal train was extended December after members learned McKinley was starting a new phase of treatments. “It’s one less thing to think about.”

"It's been amazing," added her husband, Casey, who works in the medical sales industry. "People have jumped in and helped. My job is pretty demanding and my hours are pretty unpredictable, so for people to provide meals has been a huge help.  It's really been overwhelming."

Mom’s Group President Jill Bennett had vetoed Moore’s objection to continuing the group's "sunshine" meals, normally shared for about two weeks with new moms or mothers who had undergone surgery.

"Karen has really long days, even days she's not at the hospital with McKinley," Bennett said. "Our main focus is to support each other as moms."

Member Julie Ruffing, a past-president of the group, agreed.

“It’s a small gesture in the large scheme of what she’s going through. I think that’s why everybody is just volunteering nonstop to help them," she said. "None of us can relate to what they are going through, but we can help her any way we can because it’s such a horrible situation. You make meals for your family and you add a few more servings to it. It’s not that big a deal for one of us to do, but it makes a big difference. I think the moms are really rallying around her family and doing anything they can.”

Friend Alana Blasewitz said bringing meals is a simple act with a big goal.

“There’s nothing that can take away the pain or the stress of McKinley’s diagnosis,” she said. “This is a way we can show our support and that we’re here for her. It’s one way to make life a tiny bit easier.”

Karen Moore had shared news of McKinley’s diagnosis with friends in the group, and agreed to let them post the news on Facebook. 

“This was our new life and I also welcomed any and all prayers possible,” Moore said. 

She did not, however, expect such an overwhelming response. During McKinley’s first week of treatment at All Children’s Hospital, two members showed up with a wagon full of food, gas and food gift cards and toys both for McKinley and her brother, Brady, 4. She also received texts, Facebook messages, cards and other offers of help.

Then, the meals started coming. 

“This group in particular has been nothing short of amazing with support,” Karen Moore shared in a July 16 post titled “Thankful” on her caringbridge.org blog site. “…they set up a meal train for when we returned home (which by the way has been an absolute life saver and huge blessing.)”

As McKinley cuddles on Karen Moore’s lap wearing orange-and-white polka-dotted pajamas, Moore notes the support, overall, has come from everywhere. One friend from high school even made purple-and-pink plastic bracelets that say “Keep calm and love McKinley,” and alumna in Moore’s Delta Delta Delta sorority from the University of Central Florida, started a 75-person text-message chain and sent cards to the Moore family. Moore’s mom, Carol Spencer, comes down from Pinellas County to help care for McKinley and Brady once or twice a week. 

But the Mom’s Group’s efforts speaks volumes to the friendships Moore has developed, as well as to how moms rally together to support each other, she said. In addition to meals, the group has organized fundraisers, including a jump-a-thon at Sky Zone Trampoline Park in Sarasota, to help pay for McKinley’s medical expenses, and also hosted a playdate at which children made cards for McKinley. 

“It’s a huge support system,” Moore said. “We’ve gotten prayer blankets, cards. It’s been tremendous.”

Contact Pam Eubanks at [email protected].

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