Buy & Give: Growing Hope With Prayers From Maria

Buy & Give: Growing Hope With Prayers From Maria

Discover the powerful mission of Prayers From Maria and the extraordinary connection between paper and hope.

Home to more than one million showstopping, impossibly bright, gorgeous yellow sunflowers, these sprawling fields are hard to miss – and that’s largely the point.  Maria's Fields of Hope, including a 42-acre garden in Avon, Ohio and a 9-acre plot along the causeway in Cedar Point, Ohio, were planted to raise awareness of pediatric brain cancer and funding for much needed research.

When one visits the Fields of Hope, or even imagines them in one’s mind, looking out into those glorious sunflowers does bring awareness … tinged with deep sadness for children gone too soon, for those who’ve lost loved ones of all ages to cancer or are dealing with the disease themselves. Yet, looking out into those Fields of Hope, as people from around the globe have, those same gorgeous fields of sunflowers become open to interpretation.

For out in those fields are stories of determination: sunflowers from people, families, and communities who want to help; blooms of doctors and specialists joining forces and spearheading research; gardens of joy where visitors gather to remember and celebrate being part of the hope of breakthroughs and the dream of a cure for pediatric cancer.

And in those impossibly bright, gorgeous sunflowers is the promise of two parents. Because out in those Fields of Hope, whispering in the wind, are prayers from their little girl named Maria McNamara.

Prayers From Maria
What would you do if one day you were told that your otherwise perfectly normal, healthy, 6-year-old little girl had a terminal brain tumor that would take her life within a year? This is exactly what happened to Ed and Megan McNamara whose daughter Maria was diagnosed with a diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma (DIPG) on April 1, 2006. This was no April fool’s joke.

Megan writes: “We knew on that day that our lives had changed forever and that we would never be the same again. We searched everywhere for an answer, a cure, that one thing that could make Maria’s case different. What we discovered was that Maria’s type of tumor – a glioma – was the deadliest kind and, despite gliomas being the second highest cause of cancer deaths in young people, there was little hope for a cure. Funding available for research is next to nothing. Advancements for these children have been negligible. Children simply continue to die.” *

As the McNamara family faced and battled the unthinkable, Ed and Megan were taken aback by the lack of funding, research, anything being done – and by their daughter’s prayers.

“Chemotherapy, radiation, in the midst of all of this,” Megan McNamara says, “she prayed for others, she wanted them to get better. It wasn’t about her; it was about all of these kids. Children who go through these traumatic experiences, they have to grow up very quickly, they become adult-like very quickly. Maria had a lot of depth, wisdom. She wanted this problem to be solved.”

In January 2007, Megan and Ed McNamara co-founded the Prayers From Maria Foundation. Maria was alive to see her parents begin the nonprofit that is determined to find a cure. Prayers From Maria is dedicated to funding global research into the causes, prevention, treatments, and cure for the deadliest childhood brain tumors known as gliomas; raising public awareness about gliomas; and bringing hope to children and their families who deal with the hardships of this disease.

Maria McNamara died on July 14, 2007, at the age of seven. “Through it all, Maria showed tremendous character and dignity. Her strength, her courage and, most of all, her faith, left marks on our souls that have changed us forever. She never thought of herself. Instead, she chose to pray for all children suffering from cancer and their families. She prayed that the doctors would find a way to help them. She is our hero, and her fight became our inspiration. Her prayers became our mission.” *

8.5 x 11 Prayers From Maria
A nonprofit working to cure childhood cancer and 8.5 x 11 copy paper are not ordinarily related, but Millcraft’s Buy & Give copy paper is designed to be extraordinary.

Established in 2015, Millcraft’s Buy & Give initiative grew out of its mission to create meaningful impact within Millcraft’s communities. The program provides businesses the opportunity to support local charities through routine purchases of Millcraft’s Buy & Give brand office paper. For every carton of paper purchased, Millcraft donates $1 to the program. Since its inception, Buy & Give has generated more than $600,000 within Midwest communities served by Millcraft and select charitable organizations, including Prayers From Maria.

Millcraft’s Cleveland Regional Manager Aaron Catlett says his region’s Buy & Give proceeds, totaling approximately $90,000, have gone to a number of designated non-profit recipients since the program’s inception, with Prayers From Maria being unanimously selected in 2020 as the sole beneficiary going forward by his team of employees.

Catlett says partnering with Prayers From Maria is a natural fit. “Millcraft works to make an impact in the communities we serve. With Prayers From Maria, we’re all in. We want to be part of the dream and the hope for a cure, the breakthroughs, the funding and research to save as many children as we possibly can.”

Labor of Love
Megan and Ed McNamara accept no compensation for Prayers From Maria and consider the organization a labor of love. “We’re a Mom and Dad who started a foundation, we’ve been able to make in-roads right from the beginning where there was next to nothing being done.”

  • $12 Million: Prayers From Maria seed grants have acquired follow-on funding from the National Institute of Health and other organizations resulting in more than $12 million going to numerous promising research studies and the fight against childhood brain cancer.
  • Experts on Board: The Prayers From Maria Foundation Medical Board consists of top pediatric oncologists, doctors, and researchers for gliomas. Funding is awarded based on their professional expertise, experience, and evaluation of grant applications received.
  • Think Tank: Prayers From Maria recently sponsored a Pediatric Brain Tumor Think Tank in San Francisco where 27 of the world’s top pediatric physicians, researchers, and clinicians gathered with the purpose of encouraging innovation in the field of pediatric research; Prayers From Maria awarded a $500,000 grant to the most compelling, collaborative research initiative.
  • Nurse Navigation Program: Prayers From Maria supports MY DIPG NAVIGATOR™ PROGRAM, a free, nationwide nurse navigation program for patients and families facing a pediatric brain cancer diagnosis, specifically DIPG (diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma) or DMG (diffuse midline glioma). Families are provided immediate support, disease education, and guidance in identifying experienced DIPG or DMG physicians, according to the patient's location or expertise preference.

“With very limited funds available for research, it matters where each of our grants is awarded. It is of the utmost importance that our funding support the most promising research being conducted on gliomas -- wherever that may be,” Megan McNamara says.

The flower withers, but the seed remains. The world is a better place, because of you.*

By: Jen W. O’Deay

*All italicized content within this article is cited directly from the Prayers From Maria website.

To learn more about the Buy & Give program in your community, click here or Just ask.

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