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
MaxLove's Month of Love
To us, love is so much more than a word, it's an essential force that defines the most powerful aspects of the human spirit. Love is what this organization is founded in; it’s what motivated SuperMax’s parents to seek options in response to their son’s daunting diagnosis, and it’s what keeps the entire MaxLove Team dedicated to providing fierce options for all families and their SuperKids. Love is what brings us together, connects us, bind us and builds hope for a better future. This is why we continue to work to build a community, united by MAXimum love.
For this reason, we celebrate February as our Month of Love. We extend the Valentine's Day spirit to benefit SuperKids and SuperFamilies, growing our community of hope. For the MaxLove Team, it’s when we celebrate how far we’ve come, and look forward to where MaxLove Project and our childhood cancer community is going. This is our Month of Love celebration to grow, spread, and celebrate love! Read on to explore all of the amazing projects and events we have planned.
Month of Love 2016: Supporting SuperKid Ambassadors
This Month of Love, we’re bringing our community together to support our SuperKid Ambassadors, SuperKids who step up to share their love with their hospitalized peers. Facing a critical life-threatening illness, being hospitalized, can feel incredibly disempowering. We've found that there is nothing more empowering than giving and, in service of this, our SuperKid Ambassador program is designed to share the therapeutic process of giving.
SuperKid Ambassadors are given the very special mission of delivering Cloud b light products to SuperKids at their local hospital or treatment facility. If you’re a SuperKid and would like to bring SuperMax to your own hospital, you can sign up to fundraise to grab one of our limited spaces in the project HERE.
If you’re a SuperAlly, our SuperKids need your help! You can check out our fundraising page HERE to support our SuperKid Ambassadors. Using our donation platform, you can dedicate your donation in the name of a loved one and even send them an e-card to commemorate! YOu will also be eligible for some great Month of Love prizes from the MLP #GoGold collection.
Sharing the love: Instagram #GoGoldvalentine Campaign
Of course, this month is all about spreading love, which is why we’re sharing the love we have for other organizations who are standing up for our SuperKids. Each week we will be highlighting a different partnering social enterprise that's active in the fight against childhood cancers on our instagram. Check out our weekly scavenger hunt this month to learn about these amazing organizations and to enter our #GoGoldValentine giveaway!
MaxLove Brand: #GoGoldValentine
MaxLove Brand is also excited to be taking part in Month of Love by sharing a special collection of love themed apparel. With each purchase of a piece from the #GoGoldValentine Collection, not only do you receive 10% off at checkout, but the MaxLove Team will select a SuperKid to receive the same piece! Shop for the love in your life, and spread MAXlove!
Local Orange County "Be Mine Valentine" Wine + Bingo Night
Sunday, February 14th (5:00-8:00pm)
Join the MaxLove crew for another amazing Wine + Bingo night at The Lost Vine in Tustin! We'll be raising money for MLP's pioneering programs and services with highly competitive bingo and lots of amazing prizes from our exclusive #GoGold Month of Love collection of totes, tees and mugs as well as wine and beauty products. With each ticket purchase MaxLove Project will send a Love + Light Be Super Kit to a child fighting cancer. **The ticket is for the bingo competition only. Wine and food pairings are offered separately.
From the MaxLove Team, we’re wishing you a happy and thriving Month of Love!
May your choices reflect your HOPES not your FEARS." ~Nelson Mandela
Here's my choice in 2016: I'm quitting my day job and devoting my full time and energy, as the Chief Hope Officer (our version of CEO), to MaxLove Project and families everywhere fighting childhood cancer.
I could talk about the fear I have about this choice (let's just say that my husband's not in the middle of getting his 2nd PhD for the money). Rather, I want to tell you about the hope this choice springs out of.
Max and I started Max's Love Project (our original name) in the late fall of 2011. He had just been diagnosed with brain cancer at the end of the summer and was in the midst of chemotherapy and intensive post-surgery rehabilitation therapies. As Max and I spent our days in treatment and therapies, we wanted to pay forward the love shown us by our local community. So, we started by giving away something that helped Max tremendously in those early days: Cloud b's Twilight Turtle. This little therapeutic sleep aid made a huge difference for us and we knew it would make a difference for other families as well. We hoped, as an added bonus, that Max would learn about the powerful, healing aspects of giving as well.
Just about a year later in 2012, in the midst of launching our cause brand MaxLove Brand, we saw the power and the deep potential in our expanding vision. Max was thriving against the odds and so many other SuperKids who followed a similar integrative protocol were thriving as well. We knew we had to share these integrative resources with as many childhood cancer families as we could. So, we changed our name to "MaxLove Project" to signify not Max's love, but rather "MAXimum love, for all kids fighting against the odds, working to thrive in the face of life-threatening challenges.
Shortly after Max was diagnosed back in 2011, my colleagues at Saddleback College (where I am Director of Student Life) gave me a truly precious gift: their hard earned time in the form of a year off of work. This allowed me to be with Max through the rigors of treatment and therapy. Part of our intention in starting the nonprofit, as mentioned previously, was to pay forward this sort of amazing support (and there were so many other examples of this kind of love shown to us). Too many families are not afforded such incredible benefits, and we were in a position to do our part to extend our community's kindness and love to others in need. As I returned to my amazing students and supportive colleagues in the fall of 2012, I knew I couldn't just let MaxLove Project wind down. It had grown beyond our little turtle give-aways into something that was changing the ways families faced childhood cancer treatment and survivorship. So, as a family, we learned to juggle my full-time work at the college with Max's treatment and therapies, the normal needs of Max's little sister, Maesie, and the growing work of MaxLove Project. Through late nights and weekends, MaxLove continued to grow and grow.
We forged ahead with our Fierce Foods Academy cooking classes, online support group, free personalized dietitian consultations for families, educational materials and resources, research funding via the St. Baldrick's Foundation, our "Love + Light Be Super Kit" (with friends Cloud b, Lily's Sweets, Goochie Goo Garbs, The Honest Company, and much more). By 2014 MaxLove Project got a super-boost with the support of Arroyo Elementary School, Jimmy Kimmel Live, and Rainbow Loom. We Loomed Against Cancer with 118 Learning Express Toys locations and our friends at Rainbow Loom, raising well over $90,000 for research and support programs.
By early 2015 we grew to become a robust grassroots nonprofit organization, supporting two part-time staff members and a new office that serves as a center of social support and resources for SuperFamilies. We partnered with Cloud b and The Honest Company to serve thousands of hospitalized kids in five countries and well as local school children. In 2015, MaxLove Project:
- Served over 9,000 SuperKids in five countries and 1800 school children in our local area.
- Was awarded "Newcomer of the Year" At the CHOC Children's Hospital Foundation's annual Charley Awards.
- Expanded our Fierce Foods Academy collection of nutrition support and education programs to include our innovative Broth Bank, a partnership with the Electric City Butcher.
- Launched our empowering lifestyle medicine based "Be Super Action Plan" to support families in treatment and beyond.
- Created our SuperDuper SuperKids Thrive Guide therapeutic coloring book through our Camp Make & Believe therapeutic arts program.
- Hosted our first (and wildly successful) fundraising gala, our Farm to Fork dinner at Tanaka Farms.
- Partnered with Southern California Edison, Real Properties Department to engage employees in giving and service.
- Launched Ethan & Choco's Book Club, a library and reading program at CHOC Children's Hospital.
- Grew our "Love + Light Be Super Kit" initiative to serve children across the country.
- Initiated a monthly "Be Super" social support and therapeutic arts event program at CHOC Children's Hospital.
- To top it all off, our partners in hope, Cloud b, launched Super Max the Turtle, a current nominee for Toy of the Year!
So, we are faced with a choice in 2016: do we take MaxLove Project to the next level and help more childhood cancer families and in a deeper and more meaningful way? Or do we simply want to maintain what we have built so far?
I am making this choice from a space of hope. As sad as I will be to leave my amazing students and truly exceptional colleagues at Saddleback College, I know that MaxLove Project is doing groundbreaking work, it needs to grow, and the only way to do that is for me to give 100% of my time and energy to this cause.
So here's what 2016 has in store: We're initiating the Gold Apron Society, a program with a simple mission -- enlisting chefs and the hospitality industry to build teaching kitchens at pediatric hospitals. We are beginning our plans for an integrative cancer survivorship center that will be based in Santa Ana, California. Our MaxLove Brand will be developed to become an innovative and empowering personal entrepreneurship program, helping families and communities fundraise for their own causes. Ethan & Choco's Book Club will build a beautiful library and reading program at CHOC Children's Hospital. We will also be supporting innovative sleep and lifestyle medicine research in 2016. And we'll continue to support and grow all of our exist programs too!
This is all massive and daunting. But I am determined to act out of hope and not fear. Together, I know we can do this!
MaxLove Project is a beautifully unique organization. And with your help, we can expand its influence in 2016. Make your year-end contribution go the extra mile for kids fighting cancer. With your support we will bring the Thrive Revolution to all SuperKids! Stay Fierce! ~ Audra, Max's Momma