SUAMICO, Wis. (WFRV) – Micki Klein loves to share photos of her little daughter, Mariah. But the heartbreak of 11 years ago is never far away. When Mariah was just two and a half years old, she was diagnosed with Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma (DIPG). The aggressive brain tumor interferes with all bodily functions, depriving a child of the ability to move, to communicate, and even to eat and drink. It claimed Mariah’s life 16 months later.
Devastated. That’s how Micki describes that time.
“When they told us what it would do to her if it got bigger, that’s when I got scared and I just wanted everything to go away. I was crying on the way to the hospital. I felt bad, bad for her.”
The terrible grief of losing her youngest daughter turned into a mission to help other families – and a non-profit named after her daughter called Riah’s Rainbow, which collects arts and crafts to give to hospitalized children. Micki says she got the idea to do that from Mariah, since coloring and making crafts was the one thing that could comfort her on those endless hospital visits for treatment.
Says Micki, “So when she passed away, we thought that more kids would like this. It’s a way to distract them so that their parents can talk to doctors at the hospital without them worrying about their child.”
Mariah passed away in August of 2008. The next Christmas, in 2009, Riah’s Rainbow got to work. Their first project was to send stockings full of treats to the hospital emergency room on Christmas Eve. Says Micki, “We thought, if they are in the hospital on Christmas Eve they need something, so the whole delivery room was full of stockings – about fifty in all.”
The first big fundraiser for the charity was the Miles for Smiles Walk in 2010. The family fun event, with a bounce house, and a fire truck and even a horse, attracted dozens of families- and the attention of local media – like Local 5 News.
There have been nine years of fundraisers for Riah’s Rainbow since then, with the walk replaced by motorcycle rides. Riah’s Rainbow helps children with pediatric cancer at eight different hospitals – in Wisconsin, Michigan, Illinois, and New York. The donated arts and crafts help calm frightened children facing cancer, just as it did with Mariah years ago.
Micki remembers, “ If we even stepped foot into the hospital, she would already be angry, already very nervous, and she would be crying. As soon as I would color with her, or watch a movie, or something like that, she would calm down a bit.”
With her oldest daughter, Morgan, now 18-years-old, life goes on. And Micki credits Riah’s Rainbow with helping her go on as well.
“I think when you have something else on your mind besides the fact that your child is gone and not coming back – it helps you – not get over her, because that’s never going to happen – every day I think about her. It helps you cope, it really does. People can go different ways, people can self-destruct as well. I decided not to do that.
You can learn more about Riah’s Rainbow on their Facebook page by clicking here:
Their next event is the 9th annual Riah’s Ride for Childhood Cancer is August 1st, 2020.
To learn more about Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma, visit St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital’s website.
READ THE NOMINATION LETTER SUBMITTED ON MICKI’S BEHALF
On April 27, 2007, Micki Klein’s world was shattered by the devastating news that her youngest daughter, Mariah (Riah), had a rare and inoperable brain tumor.
Affecting primarily children, it is the rarest and worst of pediatric brain tumors. The prognosis the doctors gave Mariah was six to twelve months.
During those times that Riah was admitted to the hospital, she would distract herself with coloring. Micki believes that coloring was Riah’s favorite hobby and it also served as therapy for her.
Ultimately, Mariah, 4, lost her battle with this debilitating disease but Micki hasn’t let her spirit go and uses Riah’s story as the inspiration behind the non-profit organization that she started: Riah’s Rainbow.
The ultimate mission of Riah’s Rainbow is to bring smiles to the faces of children. The goal is to be able to give pediatric patients at local hospitals crafts and art supplies.
Often “Community” craft items often offered to cancer patients. Due to these patients comprised immune systems, the threat is always there that the child may develop an illness.
Riah’s Rainbow’s mission is to remove that fear for parents.
To be able to continue to give these gifts, Riah’s Rainbow relies on the donations of the community around them. Through charity events and generous donations run by Micki, she has been able to raise funds to cover the costs of supplies for over 10 years now.
Despite her devastating loss and all the pain that she has endured, Micki’s passion, heart and commitment towards all that she puts her mind to, is so commendable. She bears weight on her shoulders like no other but faces each day with a smile on her face.
She is truly someone that I admire, and it would be an honor to Micki for her to know just how much of a remarkable woman she is in the eyes of her family and friends.
Please consider her for this initiative to honor the influence that she has had on her community and the lives of so many around her.
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