We are thrilled with the news that Gerd Glaudemans of DreamRides Curaçao is committed to raising funds and awareness for the children’s cancer fund of the Ronald McDonald House Charities Foundation Curaçao. As parents and sister of true soldier Justin Penso, who unfortunately lost his brave fight in 2016 at the age of 14, we have been through an emotional roller coaster ride for several years since the day we received his diagnosis.
Childhood should be filled with laughter, games and happy moments. Being a kid shouldn’t include things like surgery and chemotherapy, but unfortunately, childhood cancer is the reality that many families face. No one is ever prepared to hear that their child has a life-threatening illness. When our Justin was diagnosed with Neuroblastoma, a type of cancer that forms in certain types of nerve tissue, his childhood was upended in a split second, as his treatment became the number-one priority of our family.
If a child has been diagnosed with cancer in Curaçao, he or she will be sent abroad for treatment. In our case, we went to the University Medical Center Groningen in the Netherlands to start Justin’s treatment plan. A couple of years later, we needed to go to Philadelphia because his case was distinctive and too complicated. This journey impacted our entire family. The logistics involved in supporting Justin through treatment were tough and the financial toll and emotional consequences were tremendous. When faced with the news that we needed to travel for treatment for an undetermined period, we were completely overwhelmed. The organization of passports, flight tickets, accommodation, seasonal clothes, working arrangements (read: can we live with no income for such a long time?), the so many indirect expenses that come along with the medical bills and our younger daughter Alyssa who also needed support and care. Our family was thrown into crisis mode. We are so thankful for the support we received from Ronald McDonald Foundation in the Netherlands and in the United States of America. We received a welcoming, home-like environment for our family and the support of the volunteers became a crucial part of our days. Other family members helped us with Alyssa’s care, who could not skip school in Curaçao. We definitely cannot underestimate the power of love and affection of family members who were able to visit us. Being alone as a family in a strange country, fighting an intense battle with your child is an overwhelming journey.
On the other hand, curious young minds certainly like to be kept busy, which can be tough if you’re in a hospital setting. Fun activities can provide a little relief that can help cancer patients escape into a new world. With Justin, this was no exception. It was true bliss seeing our boy enjoy when taking a trip to the mall and enjoy a breeze of fresh air. During these tough times, we definitely created beautiful memories as well. An unforgettable event was the opportunity we received to be present with Justin at the Miami Open Tennis Tournament. We are so grateful for Jean Julien Rojer who made this happen. Justin was an avid tennis player and the fact that he could meet his favorite tennis players was a dream come true. Besides all the pain he was feeling that day, the smile he had on his face will always remain in our hearts. Other little fighters also have the right to celebrate life!
Gerd Glaudemans, thank you for this great initiative! We are sure this fundraising will improve the quality of life and care as kids battle cancer. Nobody will say this journey is easy, because it’s not, but having this support can enable those affected by childhood cancer to find a bit of hope and realize they are not alone in this fight.
Ryan, Gera and Alyssa Penso
Donate to the Dream Rides for Childhood Cancer Fundraiser