In 2007 Gretchen Holt Witt, ’89 and her husband Larry learned that their precious two year old son Liam had a deadly form of pediatric cancer. Their son, Liam was diagnosed with Neuroblastoma: a type of cancer that merely 30% of children survive. Stunned and frightened, they began to fight for Liam in every way possible. Along the way, they were shocked to find out that pediatric cancer is the leading cause of death by disease for children under the age of 18 yet is severely underfunded. In December 2007, Gretchen and Larry founded Cookies For Kids’ Cancer, a non-profit organization dedicated to raising awareness and funding for pediatric cancer research. Their secondary goal: to make the letter ‘c’ mean ‘cookies’ – not ‘cancer’.
Cookies For Kids’ Cancer has been able to raise over 2.5 million dollars since its humble beginnings in 2007. The organization has caught the attention of superstars such as Oprah Winfrey and Joan Cusack. They have even been featured on Live with Regis and Kelly, Good Morning America, CNN.com and in numerous publications such as the Washington Post, Parents, O, and Good Housekeeping. All the while, behind the scenes Liam Witt continued his own battle against cancer. In May of last year, Gretchen returned to Meredith College to deliver the Commencement speech to the class of 2010. The Meredith College community was both honored and privileged to have their own real-life hero standing before them. Her poignant speech inspired Meredith’s graduates to make a change in the world and to remain faithful and diligent no matter what the odds may be.
Sadly, on January 24th Liam lost his hard-fought battle with Neuroblastoma. His parents wrote, “Our dearest Prince could simply fight no more as his enemy had grown in size and strength. He fought fearlessly and relentlessly for 4 years… Our heart is broken and with it the ability to rationalize the rush of feelings that surround us.” Prince Liam’s service took place on February 14th in New York City at St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church. During the service, Gretchen spoke about the legacy that her son left behind, “When I think about my son, his life, his legacy and what he taught others, the message is clear: it was love. He lived his life with love as his true north. Love for people, love for knowledge, love for living, love for life. He truly lived to love.”
At the young age of six years old, Liam was somehow able to spark a revolution. He has taught us how to live each day to its fullest, how to laugh and smile in the face of danger, how simple it is to make a difference and most importantly how to live a life full of love. We post this story today in honor of our brave Prince Liam and our hero Gretchen Holt Witt. We hope that you will be inspired to make a difference and change the world…one cookie at a time…
For more information on Cookies for Kids’ Cancer, click here.
Thank you to everyone at Meredith. Your support means the world to me and my family.
I commend the entire Witt family for sharing the story of Liam with millions and millions of people across the world who cheered for the victory of his health. It takes courage to let people in, and bravery to struggle through hard times and still come out looking strong. Gretchen gave a beautiful speech at Commencement and I know that the entire Class of 2010 is thinking about her and her family during this time.
What a great article and inspirational story! I know that the Class of 2010 feels a sentimental connection to this story. I am very grateful that Gretchen was a part of our commencement and that we can now pass along Liam’s story to others. In the next months, I know that the Class of 2010 will keep the Witt family in their thoughts and prayers.
Also – thank yo for sharing this story. As a parent – or any adult that has a child in their life that they love – this is our greatest fear. No Mom or Dad should be expected to endure outliving their child. Gretchen and her husband have fought so bravely and eloquently on behalf of all children and families that live this nightmare. Childhood cancer should not even be a phrase that exists in our world. As a member of the Meredith Class of 1989 I know my fellow alumna join me in praying for Gretchen and each of their family members. I challenge my classmates to come up with a way to honor their courage and all other families in this fight – including at least one other that I know of in our class…. Love the slogan – make ‘C’ stand for Cookies!
Thank you for sharing this beautiful story. I am ready to get involved and help in the fight. We are so lucky to have a fellow alumna like Gretchen – she is truly an inspiration.