Hear from a Next Step parent how your holiday appeal gift will truly make a difference.
I’m the proud father of Neal O’Brien, a remarkable young man who is a twenty-year survivor of pediatric brain cancer. I’m writing because of how much Next Step has helped Neal and our family and to ask for your support.
In June of 1991, our family’s world turned upside down. Three days after kindergarten graduation, Neal was diagnosed with a brain tumor. He was six years old.
Things felt nightmarish and out of control that summer. Neal’s treatment didn’t work and eventually he was put under hospice care. We were devastated. Miraculously, after a couple months Neal started improving and we discontinued hospice. I can’t describe the depths of despair in thinking we would lose our six-year-old son, followed by the heights of joy in moving towards his survival.
At first we thought the tumor would be removed and life would go back to normal. Reality turned out much different. We slowly realized Neal would always live with a life-threatening medical condition. He would face physical, social and medical challenges throughout his life.
Our society is pretty good at helping young children with special needs but we’ve learned with Neal that young adults with life-threatening illness aren’t as lucky. Medical advancements mean this population will keep growing but there are few places to turn for help.
Thank goodness for Next Step. Next Step had an incredible impact on Neal. For the first time, he was welcomed into a community of friends who understood his experiences because they had been there, too. His physical and social limitations seemed to fade into the background and he was part of the crowd. We’ll always remember his beautiful grin as he amazed us all by zip-lining 35 feet in the air through the Connecticut forest.
There are so many families like ours who could benefit from Next Step’s programs. Next Step is the bridge to adulthood for young people with serious illnesses who are desperately in need of support. Please help by making a gift to Next Step today. Your donation goes directly to programs for families like ours and young people like Neal. Thank you.
Neal O’Brien, Sr.