Good Kid Award Recipient Sadie Keller uses her experience to help other children with cancer.
by Karyn Brodsky
Cancer diagnosis is terrifying for anyone. When it’s a child, no words can describe the anguish felt by the parents. Now, imagine what goes on in the mind of that child…
Sadie Keller knows what that diagnosis feels like. The Lantana resident and rising fifth-grader at Blanton Elementary School was just seven years old on February 25, 2015 when she was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia. While Sadie’s prognosis is good, she spent a month in the hospital, has had numerous doctor visits, and underwent chemotherapy treatment for 2½ years.
Her mother Sarah says she and her husband Shawn were surprised that just two months after her diagnosis, Sadie started making videos to help prepare other children with cancer. “She went into my closet one day and, without our knowledge, created a 17-minute video that detailed what to expect and provided reassurance,” says Sarah. “When she showed it to us, we were amazed that she paid attention at the doctor’s office.”
What inspires a seven-year-old to do something with such wisdom beyond her years? Sadie says, “I thought about when I got diagnosed and how kids and parents would be scared, so I wanted to help them know what to expect.” Now the Child Life Specialist at Children’s Medical Center in Dallas where she had her treatment shows Sadie’s videos to newly diagnosed children.
As if the videos weren’t enough, Sadie collected toys to distribute to children in hospitals at Christmas. “It started when I asked my doctor if Santa came to the hospital, because I couldn’t imagine being there on Christmas,” she explains. Sadie made a video and posted it on social media, and the toys poured in. “In 2015, I collected 1,300 toys, in 2016 it was 4,600 and this year, my goal is 10,000,” Sadie says. “We gave them to children at Children’s Medical Center in Dallas and Cook Children’s Medical Center in Ft. Worth, and this year, I hope to add the Medical City oncology floor.”
The toy collection inspired the family to create The Sadie Keller Foundation, and Sadie’s newest venture is Milestone Gifts. “We give gifts to children with cancer who hit a milestone like finishing treatment or remission,” says Sadie.
Even with her own hurdles, this little girl has a big voice. In 2015, Sadie was asked to speak at Golden Toast kickoff for the Childhood Cancer Caucus in Washington, D.C. In March 2017, Sadie lobbied with Representative Michael McCaul for more federal funding to fight childhood cancer and asked members of Congress to support the RACE for Children Act. She advocates for many organizations including The Truth 365 and CureFest for childhood cancer. Recently, Sadie was a runway model and artist in the Children’s Cancer Fund Gala which raised over $1 million for pediatric oncology research and treatment programs at Children’s Medical Center.
Support for Sadie comes from her parents, Sarah and Shawn, and her 12-year-old brother Grant. “He thinks the world of his sister and has let her take the spotlight,” says Sarah. “He’s proud of her and is the most amazing brother and son.”
Sadie just celebrated a milestone of her own with a “no-more chemo” party, but she’s not slowing down. While many who finish treatment want to go back to being a kid, Sadie’s going back to Washington D.C. “I can make a difference. I want to do this forever,” she says. “I want to change the outcome for other children with cancer.”
For her compassion and selflessness in helping children who are diagnosed with cancer, for showing them what to expect, for collecting toys to comfort them, and for being their voice in Washington, D.C., all while going through her own cancer treatment, we award Sadie Keller our Good Kid Award as well as a donation to her foundation.