At age 2, Cade Filer was an an intrepid toddler, full of energy, playful and charming. He loved superheroes.
But like every good guy in a comic book tale, the Harrisonville boy had a villain. His was brain cancer.
“He was just a normal kid who was happy and full of life. Then it happened,” said his mother, Jill Filer.
Cade would point to the back of his head and complain of pain. Doctors ordered a CT scan that would confirm the news that no parents would ever want to hear about their child.
In February 2002, Cade began treatment for the disease at Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City.
While he fought hard, Cade lost his battle with the disease a year after his diagnosis, just two weeks before his fourth birthday.
During that year, the Filers came to know the people at the Child Life Department at Children’s Mercy. Its mission is to give sick kids some of their childhood back.
During Cade’s time in the hospital, a music therapist came in to sing silly songs on her guitar while he was being poked and prodded. He could color and play games as he waited to have his port cleaned.
On the day of Cade’s stem cell transplant, Child Life specialists covered his hospital room walls with posters of Thomas the Train — another one of his favorite toys — which let him know that it was a special day and that he was a special 3-year-old boy.
“The Child Life Department was so important during Cade’s hospital stays. They provided toys, games, movies and activities that he really enjoyed,” Jill Filer said. “From music therapy and pet night to craft activities..., the Child Life staff truly made a difference.”
After their son died, Jill and Bill Filer decided to honor his memory by holding an annual birthday party where they would raise money for the hospital. Each event had a different theme.
Because Cade would have turned 16 years old on March 13 this year, “Drive for CMH” was the theme of the seventh annual Birthday Party for Children’s Mercy held March 7. It’s raised $9,167, not counting a math-a-thon now being held at McEowen Elementary.
The party was free and open to everyone, but the family accepted donations.
Two years ago, Jill Filer said, the family signed a five-year pledge to raise $25,000 for the Child Life Department. That goal was met in only two years with last year’s event. Last spring, the Filers and their second son, Evan, dedicated a a room in Cade’s honor on the hematology/oncology floor of Children’s Mercy.
With this year’s party, the family began raising a $25,000 endowment to provide continuing support for the Child Life Department on the cancer floor.
Jill Filer is the director of communications and community relations for the Harrisonville School District. Bill Filer writes columns occasionally for the 816 news magazine.
Online gifts can be given at http://give.childrensmercy.org/birthdaybenefit.