It was nearly Christmas in 2005 when Van and Chesley Gresham finally discovered what was wrong with their 23-month-old son, Tate. For months, Tate was vomiting and plagued with diarrhea and on the day they went to the hospital, he was crawling strangely and couldn’t stand up to walk.
The Greshams went to the pediatrician in Greensboro, North Carolina, and were then sent to Duke University Hospital where they waited all day for a CT scan. They soon discovered there was a mass in Tate's brain, and the doctors assumed it was a juvenile pilocytic astrocytoma. An MRI confirmed their assumption, and the tumor was removed two days later in a six-hour procedure. Thankfully it was a grade 1 tumor, which meant Tate would not require chemotherapy or radiation. The Greshams spent Christmas in the hospital and were invited by the hospital staff to pick gifts from a collection of presents for their son. Seven days later they were home.
The tumor had put Tate behind developmentally – he had to learn how to walk and hone fine motor skills again. A few months later, on the way to Tate’s three-month checkup, they heard a radio interview featuring Ms. North Carolina, who was brought back to health thanks to Duke. She mentioned working with Angels Among Us, an organization dedicated to finding a cure for brain tumors at the Preston Robert Tisch Brain Tumor Center. Van and Chesley looked back at Tate and knew they needed to pay it forward.
For the last eight years, the Greshams have raised money and participated in the annual 5K and Family Fun Walk as "Team Tate". Chesley is a volunteer for the organization and says the unique thing about Angels Among Us is that the money all stays at the Tisch Brain Tumor Center to fund new research and care. “Brain tumors are less popular as far as research goes,” Chesley says. “Brain tumor research receives a surprisingly low amount of federal funding. Angels Among Us helps make up the difference for kids like Tate and families like ours.”
The Greshams also hold an annual Pig Pickin’ tailgate fundraiser at a Virginia Tech football game each October where they sell plates of pig, hold a silent auction, and sell raffle tickets to raise dollars for the April event.
“Team Tate isn’t a big organization,” Van says. “It's just our family and friends working together to celebrate survivors and hope for a cure someday.”
The Greshams say Tate is now a pretty regular 10 year old. He’s obsessed with all things basketball and not only plays the online game, Minecraft, but learns new strategies by watching videos of other people playing. Thankfully, he’s doing just fine.
Van is a senior manager at Kalypso. To learn more about Angels Among Us and donate to their 2014 campaign, follow this link.