Heroes Forever was established by individuals who have been impacted by pediatric cancer.
Our current board of directors has committed themelves to the organization because each one has been touched by one or more pediatric cancer patients. We prefer to refer to these patients as Heroes; every one undergoing cancer treatment is a "Hero Forever".
Please read further to learn more about the passion that drives and governs Heroes Forever.
Vicky and her Hero, Jerron
Vicky's Hero Jerron and Jerron's Hero Donatello
Vicky Sternicki, Founder and President
When I was growing up, kids were my passion. I was always playing house and school. I loved to babysit. I wanted to get married and have several children. In high school, I dreamed of becoming a teacher and a coach.
For fun, my mom and her friends used to dangle a pencil hanging from a needle and thread over my wrist to tell me how many children I would have (do the still do that?). To the amusement of my mom, the pencil turned out to be somewhat accurate; it consistently reported 2 boys and 2 girls. Jeremy (Germ), born in 1980, introduced me to motherhood; Jacob (My Sweet Baboo), born in 1985 demanded I learn patience; Jerron Matthew (My Sweet Baboo #2) taught me a brand new meaning of the word "HERO" and what it means to really give from the heart. In 2003 I added a step-daughter, Sarah, to my brood; she was born in 1980 and ironically lost her real mom, who was also a friend of mine, to breast cancer the same year I had to say goodbye to my "Sweet Baboo #2". That was 1996.
The worst journey of my life began in January of 1992, when Jerron was diagnosed with ALL. For those of you unfamiliar to the childhood cancer world, that is Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia - talk about a crash course in spelling and biology! There is nothing that compares to living life watching your child fighting for his life, saying good-bye to that life and then to have to go on living with a great big gaping hole in your heart that oozes PAIN from every inch of your being!
The painful journey taught me that life truly is precious and the world does not stop while you grieve. I learned how to cry rivers while driving to the grocery store, or church, or work and when I arrived at my destination, I could take a tissue, blot the tears from my eyes, refresh my mascara, pat my cheeks dry, put on a little lipstick and go on with my day pretending for the general public that everything was perfectly normal! THERE IS NOTHING NORMAL ABOUT BURYING YOUR CHILD! When you bring a child into the world, you expect for them to see you out. There is nothing more painful than losing a child; the closest thing to that pain is knowing that you might. Lose a child, I mean. In the midst of all the pain you still have to find love and laughter, wrap yourself with that love and laughter, share it and most of all cherish it!
I could be drowning in a vodka bottle. Instead I choose to take life by the horns and focus on helping our little Heroes live life to the fullest. Jerron taught me a lot about living life to the fullest. He was always up for having fun and looking forward to when he felt better so he could play and do all of the things he loved. What I discovered throughout the 4-year battle, or roller coaster, if you will, of dealing with this life-threatening illness, was that playing and doing all of the things he loved made him feel better. Participating in fun activities took all of our minds off of the reality we lived every single day. It created some bittersweet memories. Laughter is truly one of the best prescriptions! I can still hear Jerron's laugh!
After Jerron left his earthly home, Jeremy, Jacob and I were invited to volunteer for an organization that we had participated with during Jerron's illness. They catered to kids with cancer, but more importantly, they catered to kids with cancer and their families! Childhood cancer, like many illnesses, does not just affect the patient! I wasn't sure if I could handle being around kids with cancer when the wounds of losing my little Hero were still so fresh. Wow! I was amazed that I found it very healing and learned that the Lord really doesn't give us more than we can handle. What doesn't kill us does make us stronger. I soon realized that my calling was not anything that I dreamed of when that pencil was dangling over my wrist, or when I was in high school. 18 years ago, I began a journey that was a stepping stone to launching Heroes Forever! It is such a tribute to that cute little 8-year-old boy with such a big heart and big voice! It is by the far the best thing I have ever spear-headed.
As I leave my church, above the door it reads "You are now entering the mission field". What better way to serve than by supporting and creating some very special memories for these precious Heroes and their families. I believe that it is what God has placed me and Jerron's memory on this earth to do!
Keith Herner, Vice-President My name is Keith Herner.I’m a Mechanical Engineer with Zachry Engineering Corporation in Denver.On April 12, 2002, my 5 year old son, Todd, was sent to Children’s Hospital by our pediatrician.He had a fever that wouldn’t go away after 8 days.In the emergency room that night, the doctors weren’t sure what was causing Todd’s fever.A few hours later, the doctor told my wife and me that Todd was going to be admitted to the Oncology unit and Todd was going to have a sample of his bone marrow taken.The next day, Todd was diagnosed with Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia (ALL).Todd was immediately started on chemotherapy and his treatments continued for the next 3 years and 2 months.Today, Todd is a healthy 20 year old and has been off of chemo since June 2005.
During the time Todd was on treatment, it was a very stressful time.Throughout the first year of treatment, he went to the hospital every week for his chemo treatments.This put a strain on the entire family.You spend so much time with your sick child, it’s difficult to make sure the rest of the family doesn’t get forgotten.Todd has a sister that is two years younger than him.Although she was only 3 when Todd was diagnosed, as the years of treatment for Todd went on, she started to understand that Todd was sick and she had to stay with grandparents while Todd was at the hospital.
What helped our family through the long treatment process was doing things with different groups that helped kids with cancer and their families.Long weekend trips to Breckenridge and YMCA of the Rockies, parties for Halloween and Valentine’s Day were a huge help to our family.These activities took our minds off of what our family was going through.To see your sick kid and his sister playing with other kids and being able to talk to other parents who could relate to what your family was going through was extremely helpful. Vicky Sternicki was involved with organizing some of these events and we have become friends over the years.When I found out that she wanted to start an organization in honor of her son Jerron, who passed away from ALL in 1996, I wanted to be a part of a new venture.To bring happiness to pediatric cancer patients and their families, by taking their minds off of illnesses for awhile, is why I wanted to be a part of Heroes Forever.In the eyes of the parents, the kids going through treatment for cancer are our heroes for all they have to endure to hopefully survive.My goal for being on the Heroes Forever Board of Directors, is to create activities and fun events for pediatric cancer patients and their families.
Todd and Brianna, 2002
Todd and Brianna today
Mandy Herner, Secretary
You can read about my family's story above written by my husband, Keith.I am a business owner with PartyLite and as such, can set my own hours to be with my kids when they need me.I am home to get them off to school and to greet them at the end of the day.When Todd was sick, this was a lifesaver because he was at the hospital a lot for treatment and you never knew when a fever might hit and off you would go back to the hospital.I could not have held a traditional 9-5 job during this time.
Now that Todd has been off treatment for over 9 years, life is more normal and it is time for us to give back.I have a real passion to volunteer and help others, so why not help those that have been down a similar road as we have.That is why I am on the Board of Directors with Heroes Forever.To see the smile on a pediatric cancer patient’s face or their sibling’s face is priceless!
Todd's birthday during treatment
Rick Colvin, Member At Large
I am a husband and father of 2 adult children. I work as a Sales Engineer for CenturyLink – history of 30+ years in the bell system. I lost a nephew to Leukemia at the tender age of 8.
At the time my nephew was battling leukemia, watching a child and family struggle through cancer was very challenging.
I started volunteering several years ago through a similar organization that assists families with a child struggling with any cancer. Watching, learning and trying to understand how these children and families struggle through the daily challenges that cancer inflicts is a very humbling experience. You help where you can, but do not fully understand the impacts this diagnosis brings into a family.
It is inspirational to provide family activities that allow families to step away from the daily challenges cancer demands and relish in quality family time.
I am proud to say, my wife and both children also volunteer their time and effort with Heroes Forever in support of families in need who have a child battling cancer.
Alana Lawson, Member At Large
I am the mother of 5, the grandmother of 4, adopted grandmother of 6, and work with and around young people with disabilities. On June 6th of 1996, my 4th born son, Stephen, was diagnosed with ALL (Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia). That was the continuance of our emotional roller coaster in the life of our family. You see, Stephen was born with Down Syndrome. At birth, he had two holes in his heart and was premature. His first 10 days of life were spent in the hospital on oxygen and in the incubator. He was a “fail to thrive” baby that only weighed in at 12 pounds on his first birthday. But in every case, with his big smile and loving heart, he proved the doctors wrong and won the fight to live! He had many surgeries for a variety of things his first 4 years. Then, just as we thought he was finally healthy the “Big C” hit us hard. For the next 4 years we were in and out of the hospital, at the Doctor’s offices, running to Chemotherapy, or going to Physical Therapy, Occupational Therapy and/or Speech Therapy. Everyone was affected by the cancer that my son had. From myself, the primary caretaker, to my husband, who had to play the role of Mother and Father to each and every one of the other four children while I practically lived at the hospital for the first year of Chemo treatments for ALL with my sick son. My youngest child was only 2 when Stephen was diagnosed. The stress became enormous for the family because at that time, our insurance company would not cover blood related issues and we were going further and further into debt each day. During the last year of Chemo my two oldest sons attended Columbine High School during the “shootings”.
Through all of this my wonderful young son, Stevie, reached out and touched those around him with love and kindness, taking every chemo-treatment with a thank you and a hug. The nurses would come to his room to sit on their breaks because he was so personable and loving. Everyone he met felt that same tug. He has a very catching way of living. He does everything with a smile and makes it fun for everyone. He truly is our Hero. During that first year of cancer treatment, we were referred to a group of wonderful people that provided fun for kids that had cancer and their families. This is where I met Vicky. She literally saved my little man’s life. She offered friendship and fun to a family that was hurting. My kids still talk about all the fun times they had with Vicky and the group that reached out to families with a child with cancer. As I look back at those trying four years, I see the difference those times made in our lives and the lives of so many others. So when Stephen was old enough to volunteer, we started to help Vicky out with Heroes Forever to help pay back some of the fun times we had and to create fun times for other families that are affected by cancer. I am proud to volunteer and serve on the Board of Directors for Heroes Forever.
Bonnie Buquor, Member At Large
I am Bonnie Buquor. I am a wife, mother and a Registered Nurse. Praise the Lord that I have not experienced cancer myself, as a mother or a wife.I did have a niece who as a young adult died of a rare form of cancer. She lived in Idaho.
I did experience the horror of having my son sustain a serious injury. He was 17 years old.He is now 33 and got married this summer. I was a single Mom and had friends who were wonderful but could not comprehend what I was living through. Not many parents are lucky enough to have a child who survived being shot in the face. I was lost with no one to talk to. Of course we lived through it. While I was going thru the experience, I told God that someday I wanted be able to help other parents who were going through similar mind boggling and heart wrenching experiences.
I met Vicky Sternicki and after learning what her passion was, I realized that God had put her into my life for a very real reason (other than being my son’s future Mother-in-law).She is truly dedicated to making life for kids with cancer and their parents more than just hospitals and medicine, if possible. That hopefully means fun for the entire family, or perhaps just forgetting those not so nice things for a few hours or days.
While I have not experienced the exact same situations as many, I do want to support the Heroes Forever organization, support it’s volunteers and perhaps connect with a parent of a Hero here and there. I am here to help make this organization flourish in whatever capacity I can.
Andrea LeClaire, Treasurer
Audrey Loveland Treasurer May 2008 - July 2010
I bring a slightly different perspective to Heroes Forever. I myself am not a direct survivor of cancer, but I am the daughter of a cancer survivor (my mother), the sister of a brother who succumbed to cancer and the Grandmother of my Hero and granddaughter Savannah. Savannah was diagnosed with Osteosarcoma, a bone cancer, in November of 2000, after just turning 11. Not only did I have to bear the pain of watching Savannah endure chemo and numerous surgeries, it brought back the memories of losing my younger brother to his battle with childhood leukemia at the age of 13. I was only 15 but I remember it well and learned all the deep reality that cancer is a life-threatening illness. While watching Savannah go through treatment, facing the possibility that she could lose her leg, or worse, her life, I had to be a brave warrior in support of my daughter, my granddaughter and other family members. This was perhaps more more than I should have to endure - but I am, after all, a Mom, and a Grand-Mom. That says a great deal. Fortunately, Savannah is now a normal girl in college, with a disease free leg supported by a titanium rod. This does not prevent her from driving me crazy (as most teenagers are meant to do) and she gets to do it regularly since she lives with me. During Savannah's illness, there were several organizations there to support and help the family through the horrific experience of dealing with childhood cancer. I feel that I have the time, talent and passion to help other families survive the roller coaster that childhood cancer takes you on. Heroes Forever was a perfect fit for me and my family to give back.
Christina "Chrissy" Hernandez Member At Large, April 2009 - July 2010
As an only child for the first eight years of my life, I spent much of my free time with the three rowdy boys that lived next door.The boys and I were constantly playing baseball, digging in the dirt, having bike races; if it was fun, we were doing it!It was perfect coming home from school and going directly to the fence to see who was there to play with or talk to. To this day, I do not think that I have had a group of friends quite like that, a second family.
Then, the youngest of all of us, Jerron, got sick.At eight years old, I had no idea what Leukemia was, a Mediport, a spinal tap???It was so confusing to watch one of my best friends losing his hair and watch his body transform so quickly!It did not matter; he was still the same friend that I loved so much.So maybe we were playing Mario Brothers at the hospital instead of a house.We started doing more indoor activities like crafting and watching movies together.We were still up for having fun!Looking back on that time in my life, it amazes me how Jerron kept smiling and trying to have fun even when the cancer tried its hardest to get him down.
When Jerron passed away, I was 12.I have never felt such a pain in my heart.That pain took so long to dissipate, but as I grew older, I was able to look back at Jerron’s life and all that he taught me.Even in the worst of times, he could find something to smile about.He inspired me to start volunteering and later working with children that have a variety of special needs, including those with cancer, those with muscular dystrophy, and those with autism.
I look forward to serving Heroes Forever, the brave heroes, their families, and their friends!
Chrissy and the boys next door, Circa 1990
April Gooderum Member At Large, January 2010 - August 2010
I am a 7th grade science teacher and coach at Mesa Middle School in Castle Rock, CO (April has since moved to Indiana).Some would say I am crazy, but I love teaching and coaching middle school students because of their excitement for life and their desire to learn.I see this same excitement with the pediatric cancer patients I have been privileged to work with for the last twelve years.Over the years I have been able to recruit members of my family to volunteer, including my husband Mike and my sisters Nicki and Bobbie who have also enjoyed their experiences.I always look forward to my time with Heroes Forever.
Cancer has hit my family several times. My great Grammie Norma successfully fought ovarian cancer, my Papa Ocie died of lung cancer, my great uncle is currently fighting lung cancer, and my dad has had multiple spots of skin cancer removed.My great Grammie Alberta, who I would proudly call my hero, also had breast cancer twice. She successfully fought it the first time.The second time, however, a small piece metastasized and went into her spine and she had to continue radiation treatment.She never let cancer get her down.She was always worried about everyone else around her.She passed away in 2008.My Grammie Alberta was the strongest, most caring woman I have ever met.I would be happy to someday be half the women she was. As a science teacher I tell my students cancer is a cell that divides out of control but when it hits someone you love, the only thing I can think to tell them is that cancer is a horrible monster and it needs to be stopped.In the meantime, it is best to enjoy what we can. I can’t imagine the pain that families with pediatric cancer patients go through everyday because of cancer and it is great to be part of something that may put a little joy into the lives of some of these families.The more awareness and support out there, the better off we will all be.
I am now pleased to join the Board of Directors for Heroes Forever.I believe my experiences as a volunteer, as well as a middle school teacher and coach, will allow me to contribute to a great organization. I look forward to working with a fantastic group of people.
Kerry is a Hero
Kerry Jones, Co-Founder Secretary: April 2008-May 2009 Member At Large: May 2009-December 2009
Kerry Jones is a forensic biomechanist in the Denver area as well as a founding member of Heroes Forever. Kerry has been an advocate for children and families of childhood cancer for over 10 years. As a survivor of childhood cancer, she has seen and experienced the generosity from many people who are touched by the plight of the family during treatment. Believing that you give back to the world when and in whatever means you are able, Kerry has become an active volunteer in the Denver area for the advancement for children in need.
Jeff's Hero Jesse and Jesse's Avs Heroes
Jeff Hilliard Vice-President: May 2008-April 2009
Meet my youngest son, Jesse Hilliard.Jesse is a cancer survivor. He was diagnosed with Ewing’s Sarcoma on January 1, 2005, at the age of 2. He received world class care from his medical team at Children’s Hospital in Denver, CO and today, at age 6, after enduring endless days in the oncology wing, countless chemotherapy treatments, radiation and surgery, he leads a healthy, normal life. Jesse is a success story, a true miracle of life, and one of the lucky ones to have beaten this terrible disease. Since Jesse’s remission in March, 2006, as a result of winning his hard fought battle, I felt the need to give back to the community. I wanted to be involved in a cancer foundation that focused on research and support of other pediatric cancer patients. I found that calling by serving on the Board of Directors of Heroes Forever, a non-profit organization dedicated to improving the quality of life of pediatric cancer patients and their families by providing encouragement, support and fun activities. Every night since Jesse came home from the hospital with a clean bill of health, I would tuck him into his bed and whisper in his ear, “Jesse, who is my Hero?” He would reply, “Me.” And I would say, “For how long?” He would answer, “Forever.”I shared this story with our President, Vicky Sternicki, during a conversation we shared during the start up phase of this organization. The tag ‘Heroes Forever’ was added to a list of other possible names for this organization and was independently voted as the new name for this incredible foundation.I still whisper the same two questions in Jesse’s ear every night, because I want him to know and remember that he truly is and always will be, my Hero Forever. My intention is to serve this organization with pride and honor and to be an inspiration and example to other kids who find themselves traveling this same path – to offer hope and support, that with courage and determination, they can win against this devastating disease. I hope to generate the support of other communities, organizations and individuals by creating awareness and a desire to donate, time, funds, equipment and supplies in order to grow this organization to a level that can truly benefit those who need it most.
Jeff Hilliard Vice President – Heroes Forever
If you are interested in becoming instrumental in the planning of events and activities for families, we would encourage you to attend our baord of directors meetings. As a young organization, we will have the need for passionate, talented individuals who would like to make a difference in the lives of our Heroes and their families. Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information and to let us know how you would like to help..
Heroes Forever is a non-profit tax-exempt 501(c)3 organization. EIN 26-2614414 Copyright 2009 Heroes Forever. All Rights Reserved.
Providing support and planning fun for families who have a child with cancer.