Ellen Fitzsimmons

I moved to Southern California from Ireland as a young mother of two.It was a challenge moving from a close knit family and community to the widespread metropolis of the Orange County/Greater Los Angeles area. To further add to my homesickness, my father, was diagnosed with lung cancer and passed away after a short illness 18 months after I moved. to the USA and my mother died soon after. I stayed  busy with my growing family but missed the sense of community I had experienced growing up.  As I  struggled to adjust, I became involved with neighborhood community organizations, serving on the board of the local preschool, the PTA , president of the local swim team board and taught  CCD for many years at my parish church.

 

After my fourth child was in preschool, I returned to university and obtained my M.S. in Counseling and later my doctorate in Educational Psychology. During this time I connected with a group of fellow immigrants and participated in many fundraisers to support those in need and was struck by the feelings of love and camaraderie by those who organized and participated in these events. Gathering together, seeing old friends, and making new friends was a major factor for those who participated, Occasionally, at dinner with friends, we discussed the idea of getting together and holding a regular fundraising dinner to support a charity impacting one of our group, recognizing that gathering together to support a cause benefits those who participate and organize as well as the charity being supported, Unfortunately, this idea did not come to fruition at that time. 

My life and that of my family was forever changed when five years ago my beautiful, caring, vibrant and fun loving daughter Sarah passed away as a result of a brain tumor.  The year before Sarah was diagnosed, my four-year-old great niece, Lauren was diagnosed also with a brain tumor. My husband Victor was diagnosed with prostate cancer five months after we heard the devastating news about Sarah. Those years were a blur of doctor visits, brain surgeries, stem cell transplants  hospital stays, chemotherapy, hope and desperation. Thankfully, my husband responded to his treatment and in now cancer free.Our beautiful girls lost their battle with this terrible disease and we were and still are destroyed..

 

Throughout this time, and since, my family and friends participated in a variety of fundraisers supporting the fight against cancer. We took part in events such as the Brain Tumor Walk and the ACS Relay for Life, raising thousands of dollars.. While these are wonderful charities and benefit a lot of people they did not engender the sense of community support I remembered from the past. As I moved (and continue to move) through the grieving process, I recalled my earlier conversations with friends and the supportive community events from my past. I began to discuss with my friends and family the idea of an organization, based in the community that raises funds for the fight against cancer. Since this is a community effort, rather than choosing one  charity to support, each year the charity chosen will be a reflection of the need/wishes of the participants and supporters of the organization. Thus the Emerald Hope Foundation was born.

Martina Looney

My name is Martina Looney. I moved to the US (California) when I was 18. I was very fortunate to meet a wonderful group of Irish people when I was about 22. This group has become like a second family to me. I married a guy from Cork and have 3 amazing children.

 

When my oldest child was 5 years old my mother in law was diagnosed with Bone Cancer in her spine. This Cancer could have stolen her ability to do all the things she dreamed of doing. She was a fighter and lived with this painful cancer for 15 years before she passed away 5 years ago. Most of her grandchildren did not know her as the healthy marathon runner that she was. She lived those 15 years mostly thanks to her strong will but also thanks to being in a study for different cancer drugs (research at its best).

 

Several years ago our community was hit hard with more bad news of several people being diagnosed with Brain Tumors. Again amazing people whose life ended because of Cancer. My dad 5 years ago had a fall where he hit his head; a few days later while in the hospital doctors discovered he had cancer in several areas of his body. He never complained of any symptoms (he wasn’t a complainer). But yet again was taken too soon because of Cancer.

 

So you see I could go on and on about the people I have lost or those who have survived Cancer, it is kind of alarming how many. I am here and a part of this foundation to hopefully someday not have to raise funds for Cancer research, to hopefully give support to a family who is trying to navigate through a diagnosis, to bring some light to a person who feels beaten, to hopefully someday say that I helped find that CURE.

Kathleen Gonzales

Hello, I am Kathleen Gonzales.  I am the youngest of four children, born to Irish immigrants, and was raised in Southern California. In our culture family is everything and while we had a small portion of our family living here in Orange County, the majority of our relatives lived abroad.  Along with an amazing neighborhood that embraced us, my parents found and joined a community of other immigrants going through the same experiences that they had been encountering.  This group of people came together not only to celebrate holidays, birthdays, and Friday nights but they also were there for each other during loss of life, illness and bouts of homesickness. They truly were like our extended family.

 

During my childhood I would hear about cancer and how it would affect friends of friends and of relatives that had passed before I was born.  It wasn't until my grandfather was diagnosed with prostate cancer that I would experience what it was like to watch someone suffer from this terrible disease.  Fast forward thirteen-ish years later and my world would be flipped upside down.  My cousin's four-year-old daughter Lauren was diagnosed with a brain tumor.  Lauren was an incredible child who endured what no child should ever have to endure.  Watching her fight was heartbreaking yet humbling because even though she wasn't well she always managed to make me smile.  While going through what I thought was going to be the worst time in my family's life cancer again reared its ugly head right smack in my face. At the age of 28, my sister Sarah, my best friend, an amazing ICU nurse, and someone who could light up the darkest room, was also diagnosed with a brain tumor. She also fought the fight like a champion, researching doctors and treatments and surgeries, etc. She participated in walks to raise funds for research, continued to work with patients battling the same thing as she was in the ICU at Long Beach Memorial and did it all while telling her loved ones that she was going to be okay, making sure that we weren't losing hope. It was when my dad (the man always making us smile, keeping our mind off of reality) was diagnosed with prostate cancer that I thought this was a nightmare that I was living in. Thankfully my dad pulled through with the help of his doctors at Hoag Hospital but the nightmare continued when we lost Lauren and a couple years later we lost our Sarah.  Our lives would never be the same. 

 

 It was then through the sadness and anger that I realized, with the support of my husband, that I would try my best to help others in any way that I could to never have to go through what my family has gone through.  More lives continue to be taken, year after year by this awful disease. Thanks to my family in Canada I was introduced to the American Cancer Society's Relay For Life. A large group of us (I believe at one point a team of 50) participated for a couple of years to support patients, fight the disease and remember lost loved ones.  We had a fun time for a good cause but I knew that there was more that I could do, that we could do. My mom (Ellen) had always talked about starting a foundation to support those in need by having events that would bring together our community as well as those that have the same goal in mind.  I am so excited to see what this foundation can do and it is my EMERALD HOPE that we can prevent anyone, even just one person, from the pain and suffering that cancer has caused in our lives. 

MaryBeth McCartan

MaryBeth Courtney McCartan originates from Lowell, Massachusetts - a historic town just north of Boston. Her family moved to Cerritos, California in 1969 when the University of Massachusetts purchased the land in their entire neighborhood to expand the college.

Marybeth Irish danced her entire childhood, achieving the status of Western Regional Champion and competing in Dublin, Ireland in the World Championships. She became a certified and registered teacher and member of An Coimisiun Le Rince Gaelacha, and opened The McCartan School of Irish Dancing. Together with her eldest daughter, she developed dancers of all levels and ages - including champion level, World competitors. In addition to her dancing business, Marybeth built a successful, 35-year career with the Federal government, working as Director of Human Resources for the Department of Veteran Affairs in the last 15 years. She’s since retired from both jobs, and has been enjoying traveling, volunteering, and more time with her family.

Her travel partner is husband Terry McCartan, a member of one of the most successful Irish bands in Southern California, The Mulligans. They have two wonderful daughters, both former Irish dance champions and now successful career women, as well as one beloved son-in-law.

MaryBeth’s mother and father sadly passed away from stomach and lung cancer respectively, and within only one day of each other. She is proud to join the Emerald Hope Foundation’s commitment to fund-raising dollars to support those in the community also affected by this devastating disease.

 

Email us at: emeraldhopefoundation@gmail.com​