The death of a child is an experience that is usually as private as it is excruciating. Five-year-old Caroline “Calle” Cronk was diagnosed with Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma (DIPG) in November 2012. This rare brain stem cancer—a classic “orphan disease” because it affects so few children– has no effective treatment, no cure, and a pattern of killing its victims within nine months to a year. Up to 200 children in the U.S. develop the brutally aggressive tumor — referred to as “the monster” by pediatric oncologists. That’s the excruciating part. But her parents, having been told there had been no new medical advances in 30 years, threw themselves into the world to raise social awareness and funds for research. They could have circled the wagons and pulled inward as they ushered their perfect five year old out of this world. In the last six months of their daughter’s life, they raised over $700,000 for their Hope For Caroline Foundation. In their small south shore town of Norwell, there were auctions, road races, prayer vigils, bake sales, high school hockey teams selling T-shirts, classmates selling eggs from their family chickens, grade-schoolers collecting allowance money—-all with the knowledge that this would— in all likelihood—not help their daughter, but would offer hope for the other 199 children a year who are diagnosed with this disease. Their daughter’s last months were filled with a community’s unwavering support, her parents’ devotion, prayer, faith, and love.
Calle loved to swim—so much so that her parents pledged to build a pool in their backyard for Calle’s last summer. The builders worked around the clock to finish, many of them openly weeping when the water truck pulled up and Rachael could bring Calle down to the pool. Older brother, Connor, 8, brought over a raft for Rachael to place Calle on. Says Rachael, “I feel like she is scared inside. She know’s she can’t walk, she knows she can’t talk, and things are changing…..I don’t want to look back and feel like I wasn’t there when she needed me.