Hope For Harlee continues mission
December 23, 2021
The Hope For Harlee Foundation is continuing its mission of raising funds for families fighitng cancer with specially created scented candles. Doing so will effectively give two gifts this holiday season, according to Taylor Salmi, president of the Hope For Harlee Foundation and mother to Harlee, the namesake of the foundation.
Salmi explained that the candles and sales are the largest source of fundraising for the organization, and that money goes directly to helping families fighting cancer. For the candles, Hope For Harlee Foundation partnered with Farm House Candle Company out of Hot Springs to produce a special line of candles with six different scents. The first four are named after children who have had the same rare cancer Harlee passed away from last year. Scents were selected by those children's families, who chose fragrances that reminded them of their child. The scents are Harlee, Dylan, Jace and Jessie. Two extra scents come out once a year and are Harlee Birthday, which corresponds to Harlee's birthday, and Harlee Holiday, in time for the holidays. Hope For Harlee Foundation candles are also sold at six different Murdoch's outlets, including the ones in Bozeman, Kalispell, Livingston, Columbia Falls, and one in Colorado.
As for the second gift from each purchase, 100% of candle sales goes to the foundation, to help other families in need. Over the last year and a half, the foundation has helped support 28 families affected by pediatric cancer.
According to Salmi, the foundation's goal is to tackle pediatric cancer treatment in the state. In Montana, patients are unable to receive radiation treatment because there are no hospitals that have the staff to do so. Along with that, she explained that pediatric cancer treatment is expensive, and patients must travel far out of state to get treatments. The foundation would eventually like to fund pediatric cancer treatment in-state. The main hurdle to doing so is finding staff that has the training to treat pediatric cancer in Montana. The equipment is mostly all the same, but Salmi explained there is a need for pediatric radiation oncologists, and most Montana hospitals have other priority positions to fill.
According to Salmi, only 4% of cancer research funding nationwide goes to pediatric cancer, and of that the funds are to be further broken down and directed into the different types of cancer. With such little nationwide federal funding into research, Salmi explained that it is up to organizations like hers to help. To Salmi and her family, "It's just important that we help change the climate of pediatric cancer."
Harlee was diagnosed with Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma (DIPG), a rare form of cancer that attaches to the brainstem. The tumor cells are intermixed with healthy cells, making it inoperable and always fatal. The life expectancy for those diagnosed with DIPG is generally no more than six to nine months, and children are normally diagnosed between the ages of four and six. "That was kind of the first eye opener," Salmi said. DIPG is so rare that only 300 kids are diagnosed with it per year. The process the Salmi family has gone through is what prompted them to help others.
The foundation is doing all they can to support families and reach the goal of causing change in Montana pediatric oncology. The foundation set up a booth at the Little Red Truck Vintage Market Christmas craft fair in Missoula earlier this month, during which the foundation raised $5,000. They plan on attending other craft fairs. The foundation also partnered with 10 schools across the state in their Change for Pediatric Cancer program. Students were given little gold pouches to take home and collect all the loose change they could find between September 27 and October 1. The change was then turned in and counted. The event was able to raise $11,000, and Thompson Falls Elementary raised the most money in the state among the schools, collecting around $2,500. Salmi said that among the schools, three kids requested help from the foundation. "It was really cool for those kids to see their effect, locally," said Salmi about the students who participated, since that money went right back into their own community to help children. "It has been pretty incredible to see the outreach of support across Montana," added Salmi.
For more information about the Hope For Harlee Foundation and to purchase candles and other items available from the foundation, visit hopeforharlee.org.