Author Archives: sadiesmeck

Rally for Riley Golf Tournament

Riley Gillam.

Riley Gillam was a healthy, happy 3-year-old. Then, one day, out of the blue, she developed an unusual headache. Her parents took her in to see the doctor, who ordered a CT scan. That is when Riley’s family learned that a mass had been forming in Riley’s brain.

Two days later, Riley underwent brain surgery. Her family feared the risk of complications and deficits that might result from the operation. The doctors learned that Riley had a rare and aggressive form of cancer, one that affects only about three people in every million, and it was rapidly increasing in size. Chemotherapy and other long-term treatments began immediately.

Since that time, Riley has endured several surgeries and horrible side effects including fevers and vomiting, rashes and infections and loss of hair, bowel control, balance and coordination. Her parents struggled to balance their jobs, care for their other 1-year-old child and time at the hospital with Riley. At least one parent was with her each night during the 27 days she was in the hospital.

The family will now be moving to Houston, Tex., so that Riley can receive special radiation care at MD Anderson Hospital.

To help Riley’s family meet their daughter’s ongoing treatment costs, a golf tournament will be held for her benefit on Saturday, Sept. 10 at Dove Valley Ranch Golf Club in Cave Creek.

The fundraiser will include prizes, entertainment and dinner following the afternoon golf tournament. Those who do not wish to participate in the golf tournament are welcome to attend the dinner portion of the event at a cost of $30.

For details about the event and how to participate, call 480-600-8248 or email — Sadie Smeck


Fighting ALS in style

Photo courtesy of Muze.

The ALS Association has partnered with Muze clothing company to create the “Hope is a Good Thing” T-shirt to raise funds and awareness to treat and combat amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig’s disease. The shirt was designed to represent the hope that one day, a cure for ALS will be found.

As a part of the campaign, anyone who has purchased a T-shirt can take a photo of themselves wearing it at a local or vacation landmark, and submit it to be published online in a special “Hope is a Good Thing” Gallery.

An estimated 5,600 people are diagnosed with ALS each year. The disease causes severe muscle weakness, eventually paralysis, and loss of vital body functions like breathing and swallowing. According to the ALSA, the life expectancy of an ALS patient averages two to five years after diagnosis.

Take the opportunity to fight back against this devastating disease in a fun and fashionable way! T-shirts are $39 and are available in men’s and women’s styles and sizes. The shirts are part of the Muze Movie Line Lifestyle Brand and the design was inspired by the movie “Shawshank Redemption.”

For more information or to purchase a T-shirt, visit

To upload your photo, follow the instructions at — Sadie Smeck

Valley teens volunteer at Banner medical centers

More than 85 teens from all over the Valley have chosen to spend their summer giving back to the community while exploring potential careers in the medical field. Banner Boswell and Banner Del E. Webb Medical Centers offer eight-week volunteer programs for teens ages 14-18 with an interest in medicine and healthcare.

Seventeen-year-old Corinna Cluckey, who hopes to one day become a surgeon, has volunteered in the program at Banner Boswell for the past five summers. This year, she is working in the surgery department’s family waiting room, interacting with and comforting surgery patients and their families. Interacting with patients and their families is honing this future surgeon’s bedside manner.

Corinna Cluckey volunteers in Banner Boswell’s surgery family waiting room.

Lauren Harrell, 15, works on a program called “Life Stories” at Banner Del E. Webb, where she interviews patients about their lives, then writes up their stories to place in bedside frames. The stories provide nurses and other caregivers with personal perspectives about a patient before he or she was admitted into the unit. Lauren hopes to be a physician assistant and work in a neonatal unit one day.

After interviewing patients, Lauren creates a “life story” narrative, which helps Banner Del E. Webb Medical Center staff better understand their patients.

For more information on volunteer opportunities, visit or call the Volunteer Services departments of Banner Del E. Webb at 623-214-4058 or Banner Boswell at 623-876-5382. — Sadie Smeck

An opportunity to HEAL

HEAL hosted a Mommy and Me Tea early this year. Photo courtesy of HEAL.

The Happily Ever After League (HEAL) got its start in 2003, when founder Lauren Daniels learned that she had breast cancer at age 35 . She created HEAL within six months of her diagnosis, with the goal of providing support to moms battling cancer and their families.

Since 2004, the nonprofit’s board of directors has awarded more than 500 financial grants to moms with cancer. The women can use the funds however they choose.

“Most moms don’t even have time to have a cold, let alone go through surgeries and treatment and that type of thing,” Daniels says.

HEAL has expanded its influence in recent years, with programs like the HEALing House, established in 2007, which serves moms and their families with a food pantry and various other services.

Ambassadors in HEALing is a nine-month program where high school students learn about community leadership in the areas of event planning and execution, grant writing, outreach and fund raising. Applications are currently being accepted for the 2011-12 program.

The organization’s Laura Mylonas Scholarship began in 2009, when Linda, a close friend of Mylonas’, decided to take donations for HEAL in lieu of gifts at her wedding. Laura passed away before she was able to be Linda’s maid of honor; Linda went on to create the scholarship fund in her name.

HEAL announced the three winners of the annual scholarship at a recent fundraiser. This year’s first-place winner, Marios Mylonas, is the son of the woman for whom the scholarship was named.

According to Daniels, Marios and his brother were always involved in the selection process of the scholarship winners, giving their input on candidates’ applications and essays. This year, Marios wrote his own entry essay.

“We were thrilled to give him the award this year,” Daniels says.

Marios graduated this spring from Desert Mountain High School, where he earned an impressive GPA and was captain of the varsity baseball team. He hopes to continue playing ball at college this fall.

Marios received $2,000 in scholarship money. Two second-place winners received $500 each, paid directly to their schools.

To learn more about HEAL, visit or contact Lauren Daniels at

Teen Tracks program teaches youth about animal welfare

If your teen is considering a career in animal welfare (or just loves all critters and creatures), the Arizona Animal Welfare League’s “Teen Tracks” program might be the perfect extracurricular activity for the upcoming fall semester.

Photo courtesy of the Animal Welfare League.

The Teen Tracks program provides kids ages 13 to 17 with hands-on experience in the animal welfare field and rigorous training in subjects ranging from animal behavior to husbandry — with all sorts of animals.

The course lasts 13 weeks, and participating teens are required to work shifts at the shelter on six of those weekends, assisting with animal care and observing veterinarians at work. Teens are also called upon to help with educational presentations and field trips.

Through the program, founded in the fall of 2002, teens have the opportunity to “test-drive” working with animals as a potential future career, gain leadership skills, make new friends and serve their community in a meaningful way.

Interested teens must submit an application, essay and two letters of recommendation to the Arizona Animal Welfare League by Sept. 1 to be considered for the Fall 2011 program. A small number of applicants who are selected for further consideration will come in for an interview before the “Teen Trackers” are chosen.

For more information about the program and how to apply, visit

Photo courtesy of

For kids too young or otherwise unable to participate in the Teen Tracks program, we found a no-sew, no-glue craft for animal lovers! Consider making these with your kids to donate to a local animal shelter like the Arizona Humane Society. — Sadie Smeck

Give a mile, Make a Wish

Eighteen-year-old Sydney had a wish fulfilled to snorkel off the beaches of Puerto Rico.

The Make a Wish Foundation has been granting the wishes of children with life-threatening illnesses for 21 years. The work of the foundation is possible only through the generous donations of money and other resources from individuals, organizations, faith communities, corporations and others.

About 75 percent of Arizona’s Make a Wish Foundation requests from disease-afflicted children include travel, and summer is the busiest time of the year for these requests.

It is easy to help make these wishes come true by donating airline miles you have earned from your own travels.  Once donated to the foundation, the miles never expire. — Sadie Smeck

Donate your extra miles and help make an Arizona child’s dream a reality.

Read stories about fulfilled wishes.

Bashas’ taking donations for Wallow Fire victims

The Wallow Fire is now officially the largest wildfire in Arizona’s history. While many of us in the Valley may not ever see the devastating effects of these fires up north, we have the potential to step up and help, as many individuals and local corporations already have.

In the early days of the fire’s outbreak, Bashas’ stores in fire-afflicted areas stayed open to local customers and donated food to firefighters on the scene. Now, they are making it easy for others around Arizona to bring relief to Wallow Fire victims.

Bashas’-owned stores around the state — including Bashas’, AJ’s and Food City — are currently accepting donations at the register to aid those displaced or otherwise affected by the Wallow Fire. Customers can add any dollar amount to their grocery total, and 100 percent of the funds will be donated directly to Wallow Fire relief.

Every dollar helps, and they can all add up to make a real difference in the lives of the Wallow Fire victims. So next time you make a trip to the grocery store, please reach out to help your fellow Arizonans. — Sadie Smeck

RAK Archives
The Basha family has a long history of giving back to the community. Read our “AZ Generations” article on this longtime Arizona family to learn more.