IT'S BECOME A tradition: Every year on Mother’s Day weekend since 1991, Carteret County has hosted the Mile of Hope Foundation’s Children’s Cancer Event.

It’s an outing of sorts for about 25 pediatric oncology patients from three in-state medical centers … and their families … to enjoy a beach getaway weekend at the Crystal Coast.

Kudos to an assortment of local businesses, groups and individuals for their generous support.

The children selected to participate are undergoing cancer treatment at children’s hospitals affiliated with Duke University in Durham, East Carolina University in Greenville and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Mile of Hope

“Usually, we have about 125 people as our guests, when you count up the young cancer patients, their parents and their siblings,” said Ed Moore, one of the cancer event coordinators. “This event is designed to provide a fun-filled escape from the medical procedures and hospital visits for these young cancer patients and their families,” he said.

“We have learned to pack in back-to-back activities Friday through Sunday, so while they are here at the Crystal Coast, the families are so busy creating positive memories that they don’t have time to dwell on their disease.

“Cancer can occur in people of all ages – our kids range from age 1 through the teenage years. For some families, this will be their first time to see the ocean,” he said.

Sally Moore (Ed’s wife) said: “This year’s event is May 12-14, and our theme is ‘Starfishing at the Crystal Coast.’ It takes a team of about 50 volunteers to orchestrate the Mile of Hope weekend.”

“We do it because we get such joy from meeting these courageous families and seeing them relax, get happy and have a magical time at the beach. It is a bonding experience for the families, as they gain support from one another and take comfort in knowing that they are not alone in their battles with cancer,” she said.

“Building sand castles on the beach has always been part of the group’s itinerary, and in the beginning, the vision was to create a ‘mile of sand castles as an expression of hope.’ That did not prove to be logistically possible, but the Mile of Hope name stuck and is now a brand,” said Ed.

A Mile of Hope informational pamphlet includes a quotation of one parent’s comparison of sand castles and her child’s fight for cancer:

“The walls keep falling down around you. You build them back up time after time. You hit a snag and you falter a little. But you go on never giving up hope. For there are miles and miles of hope.”

Weekend accommodations for the cancer families are provided by the Atlantis Lodge and Hampton Inn & Suites of Atlantic Beach, both located in Pine Knoll Shores.

“Other area hotels have offered to help with lodging, and we greatly appreciate their support, but it’s so convenient to have all our people situated close together,” Ed Moore said. “We have a big pizza party with the pirates on the first night, with face painting, T-shirt making and family banner decorating.

“Saturday’s schedule includes beach time, building sand castles along with the professional sand sculpting team of Sandy Feat, searching for the lost pirate’s treasure chest and kite flying. We should be on the beach at the Atlantis Lodge for most of the morning,” he said.

“Locals and visitors are welcome to come out to view the sand castles, interact with the families and joust with the pirates.

“The rest of the day will include more pirate high jinks, a boat tour that may encounter an attack by a real pirate ship, a big barbeque cookout and an opportunity to play miniature golf as well as ride go-carts and bumper boats,” he said.

Sunday’s schedule includes activities at the NC Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores.

“The grand finale is fond farewells and hugs all around … to ensure the memories are stored forever,” Sally Moore said.

“There are so many people in Carteret County to thank,” she added. “The business community here, civic groups and regular folks have really embraced Mile of Hope.”

The Moores reside in Raleigh but are second home owners in Atlantic Beach. They anchor the Mile of Hope board of directors along with Gary and Carol Turner of Cary.

The Mile of Hope Foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. To learn more, go to www.mileofhope.org.

Ed Moore graduated from NC State University in 1965 and embodies the spirit to fight against cancer that was expressed so eloquently by late Jim Valvano, who coached the Wolfpack men’s basketball team to an NCAA championship in 1983.

Coach Valvano was eaten up with cancer and died two months after he delivered his famous speech on ESPN television in 1993, at the age of 47. He said: “Cancer can take away all my physical abilities, but it cannot touch my mind. It cannot touch my heart. And it cannot touch my soul.”

In the grand scheme of things, Mile of Hope offers “a little sunshine, joy and optimism into the lives of these special children and their families,” Ed Moore said.

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