Our childhood cancer story began when our son Max was diagnosed with brain cancer on August 5, 2011. From that day through September of 2012 my amazing colleagues at Saddleback College donated their precious vacation and sick time to allow me to be home with Max as I took him to up to 12 appointments per week. From chemo to PT to OT to speech to acupuncture to clinic we were constantly on the road or recovering from treatments. We started MaxLove Project in October 2011 as a way for us to give back, build community, and positively cope with our own hardships by caring for others. We began the project with the support of Cloud b as they so generously donated their Twilight Turtle to (what was then) Max's Love Project for distribution to hospitalized kids around the world. You can learn more about how we got our start with SuperMax's healing turtle story here.
We grew MLP with Max's journey. As we discovered therapeutic nutrition, the power of sleep, physical activity, therapeutic arts, and supportive therapies like acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine, we knew we could do so much more to be of service in our community. We quickly identified an important and unfilled need to advocate for an integrative approach to cancer treatment for kids as we struggled to provide these essential therapeutic resources to our own child. So, from here, the small service project became a larger commitment and Max's Love Project became MaxLove Project. We began to grow our Fierce Foods Academy as well as our Love + Light program with Cloud b and our support to integrative medicine at CHOC Children's Hospital and beyond. By late 2012 we had vigorous online support group, cooking classes, a "Fierce Foods Guide" in print, and we were sending our supportive packages to kids around the world.
I went back to work even as Max continued to need treatment and significant support. In the next two years, Max would continue chemo on a new protocol, have a serious recurrence of the cancer, have four more brain surgeries, start the ketogenic diet and radiation therapy, and then appear on Jimmy Kimmel Live. With our amazing community, more funding and increased support we grew to serve many more families, open a new office in Santa Ana, start our innovative Broth Bank, expand our cooking classes, offer personalized dietitian support, and publish new materials to support families around the world. With Cloud b and The Honest Company at our side, we distributed therapeutic resources to thousands of hospitalized kids in five countries and garnered over 40 million impressions in our last Childhood Cancer Awareness Month Campaign, raising major awareness and hope for the cause.
As of today, MaxLove Project:
- Offers a cooking class (Fierce Foods Academy) in Orange County, CA at least once per month (if not more) with partners like Whole Foods Market and a cadre of incredibly talented guest chefs
- Provides personalized dietitian support to families facing childhood cancers
- Provides 50 Love + Light BeSuper kits per month to kids across the nation and beyond
- Offers a myriad of educational materials including a Fierce Foods Guide and our unique SuperDuper SuperKids Thrive Guide
- Is the home to our unique BeSuper Action Plan
- Serves families in our region and beyond with up to 500 quarts of therapeutic restorative bone broth through our innovative Broth Bank each month with our partners Electric City Butcher, Bare Bones Broth, and Real Bone Broth
- Provides a therapeutic online support group to over 500 families facing childhood cancers
- Offers monthly dietitian chats online
- Partners with our friends, (SuperKid) Ethan and Ali Posner, with Ethan & Choco's Book Club to build a therapeutic library at CHOC Children's Hospital
- Funds research in the area of nutrition and cancer
- Hosts monthly hospital parties with our Thrive Partners
- Opens our doors to families every week to stop by our "Thrive Space" to feel the love
- Is home to MaxLove Brand, an innovative supportive product line designed to change the way our nonprofit is funded by diversifying our portfolio of revenue streams
- Hosts an annual "Farm to Fork" fundraising dinner with our amazing friends at Tanaka Farms and Sapphire Laguna
We do this all with the support of our incredible community and a small team of volunteer board members, two part-time staff members, and a small army of volunteer interns and casual volunteers. We've done all of this on nights and weekends, as we can, with no full-time staff or executive director. And this all changed TODAY!
Today is my first day committing myself 100% to MaxLove Project. I left a professional career that I absolutely loved because it was time to make a deep commitment to grow MaxLove Project and serve families both more deeply and at a wider scale.
Our MaxLove Project Executive Board, as well as my beautiful family, all deeply recognize the potential that comes with full commitment. So we made the terrifying and tough decision to turn from comfort and head toward courage. Today I am no longer the Director of Student Life at Saddleback College and I am now the (full-time! 100%!) the Chief Hope Officer of MaxLove Project. And tomorrow, well, that's up to all of us, our Community of Hope. Our goal is to build a better tomorrow and future for all kids fighting and surviving cancer.
I know that with 100% commitment we will only grow and, ultimately, thrive. Our immediate goals are to:
- Expand our Fierce Foods Academy to communities across the country, connecting teaching kitchens and essential culinary medicine to our most vulnerable kids. We are enlisting the support of the hospitality industry and incredible chef leaders to build a new community of passionate professionals, extending culinary literacy into the space of therapeutic lifestyle medicine for kids and families in need.
- Support essential research, funding the Scheck Lab at Barrow Neurological Institute at Phoenix Children's Hospital.
- Build a model integrative survivorship program that recognizes that thriving in the face of lifelong risks from cancer treatment begins the day of diagnosis.
We have big goals and, together, we will produce amazing outcomes for our kids far into the future.
Thank you for your support and MAXlove! ~ Audra, Max's Momma