Photo courtesy of Walking Miracles Family Foundation
WMFF founder and CEO Brett Wilson
After surviving two types of childhood cancer, one West Virginia native knew something needed to change. Childhood cancer survivor and trained counselor Brett Wilson founded the non-profit organization Walking Miracles Family Foundation
“I looked at my mom and said, ‘No one is helping us.’ I felt helpless, and my mom didn’t have anyone, so I said, ‘I’m going to open a center when I get older,’” Wilson says. This dream is now a reality at the Walking Miracles Family Foundation, which provides travel assistance, education, and resources to children, adolescents, young adults, and their families affected by cancer.
Initially founded in West Virginia, the foundation is expanding to Pittsburgh to support the residents of Allegheny County. Thus far, Walking Miracles has helped over 500 families and plans to serve even more individuals affected by cancer in West Virginia and Pittsburgh.
The Walking Miracles founder empathizes with families trying to navigate the diagnosis and treatment of pediatric cancers through her personal experience. Diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia at age two and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma at age nine, Wilson underwent chemotherapy and radiation treatment at a young age. After surviving years of treatment, her grandmother lovingly nicknamed Wilson the “walking miracle” inspiring the foundation name.
Caregivers, families, and survivors can apply twice a year for $250 in travel assistance totaling $500 each year. This funding supports individuals in treatment and survivors attending follow-up appointments. Walking Miracles recognizes the barriers to cancer treatment such as high gas prices and long car rides.
Along with travel assistance, Walking Miracles supplies families and cancer survivors with Apple or Android tablets to access online resources, electronic medical charts, and entertainment during long appointments. Additionally, the foundation produced a Walking Miracles port shirt for patients receiving chemotherapy that features a special hand-sewn zipper for easy port access during treatments. “I want families to have all the resources that I didn’t have,” says Wilson.
Throughout the new year, the founder and CEO plans to provide as many cancer survivors and families affected by cancer in the Pittsburgh area with “packages of hope.” These care packages contain the Walking Miracles port shirt, an electronic tablet, and a travel assistance card among other resources.
Receiving a cancer diagnosis may trigger various emotions, and the treatment journey is often daunting. The Walking Miracles Family Foundation’s referral network connects cancer patients, survivors, siblings, and caregivers with mental health counselors to empower individuals and reduce feelings of anxiety. Appalachian Counseling Center
, a partnering organization with Walking Miracles, offers individual therapy services.
Another important service this non-profit organization offers is patient education through a nurse navigator. They offer education and support with long-term side effects, hormone replacement therapy, Type 2 diabetes, and other factors in the diagnosis and treatment process. After receiving cancer treatment for years throughout childhood, Wilson suffered from several side effects as an adult, which led to a pacemaker placement and an aortic valve replacement.
Newly diagnosed families and survivors impacted by childhood, adolescent, and young adult cancer can fill out a contact form
on the Walking Miracles Family Foundation website to connect with their services, which are always free of charge.
Primarily funded through grants, Walking Miracles is seekings partnerships within the Pittsburgh community and accepts donations on its website. They also plan to announce fundraising events in Allegheny County. Organizations interested in a partnership can contact the CEO at [email protected]
This year, Wilson plans to publish a memoir, I Am a Walking Miracle
, outlining her family history and treatment journey and offering hope to other cancer survivors.
Wilson has a message for Pittsburgh residents affected by cancer: “They haven’t been forgotten. They’re not alone. Walking Miracles is here to walk with them through their journey, whether in diagnosis or survivorship.”