The moment three doctors walked into the room, the Norrod family knew their 6-month-old son's test results would not be good.
Doctors told Dana and Jon Norrod their baby boy, Corbin, had a tumor wrapped around his spine, which was later diagnosed as stage three neuroblastoma.
“You hear the words ‘your child has cancer’ and everything suddenly changes,” Dana Norrod, Corbin's mother, said.
After months of treatment and four rounds of chemotherapy, just before his first birthday, the Norrod family received news that Corbin was done with treatment. He has been in remission for almost three years and on Saturday, he ran around a room in Walter Hall laughing and smiling. He was the guest of honor at Project FTK.
After becoming an official organization during finals week last academic year, Project FTK, which stands for “For The Kids,” has grown into something bigger. The group focuses on spreading awareness and fundraising, while helping and communicating with families, such as the Norrods, who are affected by one of their causes: pediatric cancer, muscular dystrophy, autism and down syndrome, childhood obesity or low-income education systems.
It started with a group of six friends who all had personal connections to those causes. When Paige Van Horn, the president of Project FTK and a sophomore studying exercise physiology, noticed how passionate they were about the topics, she realized they could use their drive to make a difference.
“We just felt that because of our connections to these things, we wanted to do something for all of the kids,” Van Horn said. “We wanted to let these kids be Bobcats for a day, as well as let them shine in a light they don’t normally get to stand in.”
Since the group brings in the families they support, the members of Project FTK will get to see first-hand how their efforts are making a difference.
“I think it’s really important for everyone in our organization to know these families and get to work with them,” Van Horn said. “It’s something I cherished in high school. I loved being close with them, working with them and playing with the kids.”
When the Norrod family came to speak, the group got the chance to interact with the family like Van Horn hoped. Nearly 30 of the members heard the family share its story, and watched Corbin run around the room, hide under tables and draw on the chalkboard.
Through their past connections, some members of the group already know the families they have chosen to support. For example, the Norrod family knew Van Horn.
“There are some people you know are going to make a difference in this world, and we believe Paige is one of those people,” Jon Norrod said. “When she told us she wanted to start something here, we said we were definitely on board and would do whatever we can to help out.”
Since Project FTK members focus on one cause per semester, this semester they have focused their efforts on pediatric cancer.
The main event for the group will be the fashion show that members are planning to hold in the middle of November. For that event, students will sell tickets to achieve “model status” and then they will be able to walk the runway with the kids they are helping.
Neither the fashion show nor helping those families are the end goals for the organization. The organization hopes to continue to grow and get much bigger. About 88 people signed up for committees this semester.
“This is something big, and it could be so much bigger,” Dana Norrod said to the group. “The lives you are impacting are like us, we are just normal people. It’s going to be something incredible.”
That is the main goal of Project FTK: to help and empower children and their families who are going through something difficult.
“The big thing is I want our community and other communities to realize what kids go through daily, and I want them to reach out and help them get through it,” Van Horn said. “Not only do I want to help them get through it, but shine a light on them, and let them know they are special.”