LONG VALLEY, NJ (Morris County) – When Sarah Crowley was diagnosed with T-cell Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia at 14 years old, one of the first things she did was delete her social media.
Sarah’s mother, Ingrid Crowley, said that social media was a heart wrenching reminder to her daughter. Instead of joining her friends at the 8th grade dance, or participating in a class trip, Sarah was confined to a hospital bed – fighting for her life.
“They lose a lot during that journey and that’s just one aspect of cancer,” said Crowley. “I’m not sure which is harder, the social impact or the physical impact or the emotional impact because it really does affect you; mind, body and soul.”
After a 12 month battle, which Sarah fought valiantly by all accounts, she tragically passed away in April 2017. Through the process, the long hours at the hospital, the innumerable clinic trips, Sarah’s family became part of a network of families fighting similar battles against pediatric cancer.
After her daughter’s death, Ingrid Crowley leveraged those connections and her close family relationships, to found Sarah’s Fight for Hope.
The Foundation, run by four board members (all from the Crowley family), has a mission to provide hope to local families fighting pediatric cancer of any kind. To that end, they offer direct assistance to families, as well as make large donations to bigger research and treatment organizations.
With the $45,000 in proceeds from a single masquerade ball event this past October, the foundation was able to donate $20,000 to Goryeb’s Children Hospital in Morristown (where Sarah received her treatment), $5,000 toward research by the Children’s Oncology Group, and $10,000 to the Rutgers Cancer Institute’s pediatric oncology ward.
Another critical part of the equation is the community support that the Foundation receives.
“I would say that 75 to 80% of support is by people who have never met Sarah,” said Crowley. “Whether they knew Sarah or didn’t know Sarah, they were just inspired by her and that’s what’s amazing.”
Besides Ingrid Crowley’s own work ethic and commitment to honoring her daughter’s memory, a planning and event committee of 16 volunteers maintains a busy schedule of fundraisers that help to fund big events such as the ball as well as provide financial help to families directly.
Sarah’s PALS (Perseverance, Awareness, Love, and Support) is a group of 115 high schoolers that help plan youth activities and volunteer at events. High School Seniors and young adults can also serve as ambassadors for the foundation.
At a recent fundraiser at Serenity yoga Studio in Hackettstown, the turnout was so high that some people had trouble finding a place to lay down their mat. According to the Crowley family, the money they’ve raised from events like this have enabled them to help reduce the financial burden of 16 individual families by paying mortgages, medical bills, covering gas, and other expenses that can quickly overwhelm a struggling family.
In addition to financial assistance, Sarah’s PALS strives to give emotional support for children and teens battling cancer. Since Sarah struggled with social isolation during treatment, Ingrid Crowley says her organization strives to give children and teens the gift of a normal childhood experience, which is often stolen from them.
The organization’s next event will be “Cocktails for a Cause” at the Old Mill Tavern in Chester with live music and raffles. A $10 donation is requested at the door for entry, and signature cocktail sales will benefit the foundation as well. Doors open at 9 pm, and entertainment will include local acts Mudfoot, Acoustic Shadow, Andie Baldwin, and Paul Viggiano.
Ingrid Crowley likes to say that Alex’s Lemonade Stand had to start their now-famous start-up charity somewhere. Looking toward the long term, she said that she has no rigid expectations; she simply wants to do the most good that she can.
“If I made one family happy, I’m successful. That’s all it takes for me.”
Published by: Dan Wallace