Building a foundation for others

Trading the comfort of their home for the sterile environment of Rady Children’s Hospital, André and Rachel Hudson were overwhelmed by the learning curve associated with pineoblastoma, the pediatric brain cancer that was attacking their toddler, Olivia. Besides learning a whole new vocabulary (pineal gland, cerebrospinal fluid, hydrocephalus, radiation, chemotherapy, melatonin …), the Hudsons were juggling the needs of their then-5-year-old Amaya and newborn daughter Avery, was arrived just a month after Olivia’s diagnosis.

In between treatments, the Hudsons considered how they might be able to parlay their raw familiarity with pediatric brain cancer into a support network for others once Olivia was healed.

“It’s a whole community of families who are fighting cancer,” Rachel said. “Some make it and some don’t. There is so much you learn going through it. You know about childhood cancer, but most the time it doesn’t really reach your circle.

“It’s one of those things where you think this will never happen to me or anyone I know when the reality is it’s really common. It’s not given as much attention as it needs. It’s not given as much funding as it needs. It’s a crazy community that you don’t ever want to be a part of.”

Except for a weeks-long remission about a year into her treatment, Olivia never healed this side of heaven. After her March 19, 2013 passing Rachel and her father-in-law launched the Olivia Hudson Foundation as a perpetual tribute.

“We had this incredible group of people who just came alongside us and offered their services,” she said.

The foundation’s mission is to raise funding for pediatric brain cancer research, support families in financial need, and increase awareness of brain cancer in children. One of its programs, Olivia’s Kids Against Cancer, specializes in offering educational programs with an eye toward assisting siblings who may get overlooked while the parents focus on an ill child.

While the main focus is on the logistics of pediatric cancer, Rachel said it’s also an avenue to live out their faith.

“I believe a lot of people came to faith through her,” Rachel said. “I believe that many more will through just seeing the love of other people through the foundation.”

Olivia’s dad sees the foundation more as a practical tribute to his late daughter.

“When I see the outcome of salvations and feelings from her testimony and story I can see the greater value,” André said. “I feel like it honors her but I don’t know if brings me any peace. My peace is only from God. I love the fact that she’s being honored and I love that it gives us an opportunity to share her story and I love that it helps out other kids and their families.”

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