“ Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9
“I am not strong or courageous by myself. I just happen to be the kid that got cancer. And the way I look at it, I can either go around mad and sad, or go around living with the strength and courage that comes from God and the people He has put around me. Joshua 1:9 is not just my cancer verse: it is my life verse. None of us know what life has in store… but it’s easy to have courage when you know the courage comes from God,” Carson Leslie wrote in his book Carry Me.
Carson Leslie was your typical 14-year-old freshman at the Covenant School. He had a bold charming confidence, an indomitable spirit, a disarming smile that would light up a room, and a passion for sports. It was unthinkable that anything could harm a young man with such compassion and charisma, but on October 30, 2006, the Leslie family learned that Carson had cancer – medulloblastoma – a malignant brain tumor. For the next three years, they would learn more about cancer than they ever wanted to know.
During Carson’s three-year fight, he was authentic, bold, and extremely generous. Carson walked with courage and dignity every step of the way. With his spirit and bravery, he inspired people and captivated the hearts of parents, children, cancer victims, and celebrities.
Michael Young, of the Texas Rangers, and Carson were buddies! Carson signed 7 baseballs a few days before he died and gave Michael one of his autographed baseballs. Michael took that ball and placed it in his locker at the ballpark and it was that season The Rangers went to The World Series! Michael told Annette it was Carson who inspired him as he led the Rangers with the first Series run!
Despite his courageous fight Carson lost his battle with cancer and on January 12, 2010, he took his last breath. Annette shared with me that Carson, was ready and spoke of heaven in every conversation during his last few weeks.
Carson wanted to tell his story of what it’s like to be a kid struggling with cancer, and encourage those who followed him. He hoped to be a voice for the children who are not able to tell their story. With the help of his Covenant English teacher Pat Gordon, Carson was able to put his heart on paper. His book Carry Me was published six days before Carson died, thousands of copies have sold with proceeds going to research and it’s in The Library of Congress!
We are left with the memory of Carson’s strength of character and tenacious attitude. As he became weaker and weaker in body, however, Carson became bolder and bolder in spirit. At the end, he whispered the words that have become his legacy: “Momma, make sure they study those tumors in my brain, because if those tumors can help some kid not die from cancer like I am, I’d like that. It’s hard to have cancer.”
Annette, like any mother, had hopes and dreams for her son. She watched those hopes and dreams change over time from; sleeping through the night, to remembering his homework, to getting a date to the prom, to getting well, to finding a cure for medulloblastoma, the cancer that invaded Carson’s brilliant brain.
Carson’s dying wish has became Annette’s mission.
Annette exudes passion – passion for her family and passion to fight childhood cancer. This talented teacher, whom every Covenant parent dreamed would teach their 6 year old, became an expert on childhood cancer. She knew it was her calling to help other teens with cancer and use all resources possible to help find a cure. A few months after Carson’s passing, Annette started the Carson Leslie Foundation.
CARSON LESLIE FOUNDATION
The mission of the foundation is two fold:
FUNDING CHILDHOOD CANCER RESEARCH
Twenty-four hours after Carson took his last breath, Annette received an email stating that researchers had just completed the injection of viable tumor cells into the brains of ten mice. The research had begun. Over the last five years the Carson Leslie Foundation has helped to raise and invested millions of dollars in childhood cancer research. The foundation is helping fund research projects at UT Southwestern Medical Center, Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, and Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center.
Annette serves on the Childhood Cancer Advisory Council for the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT). CPRIT’S charge is to issue $3 billion in bonds to fund groundbreaking cancer research, prevention programs and services in Texas. As a result of this unique relationship, Carson Leslie Foundation has a $3.2M collaboration with CPRIT which allows every dollar donated to Carson Leslie Foundation to be deeply leveraged which results in a greater impact.
The Carson Leslie Foundation has also played a huge role in working with Congressmen Michael McCaul and Chris Van Hollen in Washington, D.C.. Annette spoke at the Inaugural Congressional Childhood Cancer Caucus and annually chairs a “A Golden Toast” thanking the congressmen for giving the childhood cancer community a soap box from which to shout! Click here to learn more about honors received by the Carson Leslie Foundation.
ENCOURAGING TEENS IN THE BATTLE
Carson Leslie Foundation built Carson’s Corner, a teen room on the cancer floor at Children’s Medical Center of Dallas with a $100,000.00 endowment to make sure Carson’s Corner stays relevant! Carson’s Corner is the perfect place for teenagers to forget about their disease and just be themselves.
The Carson Leslie Foundation also takes cancer-fighting teens out on fun outings in Dallas four times a year. These teens ride in limousines provided by Premier Transportation to Mavericks, Cowboy’s and Ranger’s games! They are giving these valiant-cancer fighting teens the opportunity to escape the shadow of cancer and create wonderful memories.
LEGACY LIVES ON
Before his passing, Carson was very involved in the conceptual design of the Carson Leslie Center at The Covenant School. His desire was that the structure should not simply be a gymnasium, rather, an amazing multiple-purpose venue for athletic events and community-wide events. To remind all students of Carson’s legacy, his #3 jersey and his life verse hang over the entry of the gymnasium. True to Carson’s wishes, the building is a focal point of the school community and was the first permanent structure on the Covenant campus. The structure was completed with the Beck Group and generous donors.
2. Volunteer! Volunteer opportunities range from short-term to long-term assignments. Areas include, but are not limited to, finance, fundraising, marketing and communications, social media, and event support.
3. Become a Friend of the Carson Leslie Foundation: FRIENDS support the Carson Leslie Foundation’s mission to raise funds for childhood cancer research and encourage teens in the battle against cancer.
4. SHINDIG 2016 is January 22, 2016, so save-the-date, you don’t want to miss it!