Meet some of the incredible kids whose bravery, strength and love of life inspire our work.

Meet Cassie

For 14-year-old Caylee Miller, nothing beats seeing her 6-year-old little sister, Cassie, smile. "She's the highlight of my day," Caylee said. "We go for walks together, watch movies and play Barbies. She's just one of my favorite people because she is always there for me."

Over the past year, the sisters have become especially close. They've been pulled together by the difficult news of Cassie's cancer diagnosis. The diagnosis – acute lymphocytic leukemia, cancer of the blood and bone marrow – was hard on the whole family, especially Caylee. "I wonder all the time, 'Why did God do this to her and not me,'" Caylee said. "I hope she's with me through everything. I hope she can grow up to be my age."

"We felt so scared. We didn't know if we were going to lose our kid or not," added their mom, Jennifer. The family spent much of Cassie's kindergarten year traveling from their home in Gladstone, N.D., just east of Dickinson, to Sanford Children's in Bismarck – the region's only hospital offering pediatric cancer services.

Cassie lost her hair during the first week of chemotherapy treatment, but within a month, her bone marrow was clear. "It means the world to us to have care like this here, close to home. We're so thankful," Jennifer said. "Cassie actually loves her days when she gets to come to Sanford Children's for treatment. The whole staff has become like another family. It makes me feel so good to know that she feels comfortable with them."

Cassie finished treatment this March. She is now in first grade and still comes to Bismarck once a month for checkups at Sanford Children's. "Cassie is just amazing. She's a normal 6-year-old. She runs, plays and wants to do everything other kids do," her father, Joe, said. "She doesn't let much get her down unless she's told to clean her room. You wouldn't know she was sick if it wasn't for her short hair." And Caylee has seen her little sister show so much strength over the past year.

"I don't know if I could handle this the way she has," Caylee said. "She's been so strong. I know she's getting through this." "It's great to know that she's getting what she needs, so she can grow up, graduate, get married and do whatever else her little heart desires," Joe added.

Thanks to Brave Kids Bold Cures, Sanford Children's in Bismarck has the resources to care for kids like Cassie and their families. "To those who support Brave Kids Bold Cures, we'd like to say thank you straight from the heart," Jennifer said.

"Without the support of Brave Kids Bold Cures, I honestly don't know what we would have done. We're just truly grateful. Thank you."
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Meet Brave Dave

David, better known as Brave Dave, was a very special little boy. During his six years, he changed many lives including that of his mom, Lora Baker.

He was an all-American boy who loved T-ball, Spider-Man, skateboards, fireworks and ice cream. "He was always on the go, always making people laugh, always making a difference," Lora said.

Then in January 2004, David was coloring, and Lora noticed when he would look up at her, one eye would be centered but the other would stay in the outer corner. "I just kind of had that mommy feeling that something wasn't OK," Lora said.

After three days in a row of doctors appointments, the family heard the unimaginable news. David had an extremely rare and inoperable brain tumor. "That's the day that our would just wasn't our world anymore," Lora said.

Instead of being a solid mass, Lora described the tumor as being like a sneeze. The tumor went everywhere and intertwined with his nerves and muscles. "When you hear the words, 'Your child has a brain tumor,' you think, there are advances; we're going to fight this," Lora said. "But then they told us there is nothing to treat this. You just need to go home and love your child."

Under the care of Sanford Bismarck’s pediatric oncologist, Dr. Baruti Serabe, David did undergo radiation to slow the effects of the brain tumor. "She's an absolute angel on Earth," Lora said. "We came to her with a very sick boy, but she helped us spend as much time with David as we could. She will always have an extraordinarily special place in my heart."

"If you are here at Sanford, you really are with a lot of people who really care. They are going to make sure that you and your family are OK no matter what." Lora called David's 31 rounds of radiation "Star Wars beams" fighting the bad spot in his brain. While most kids his age require anesthesia to keep still during radiation, David laid perfectly calm on his own through each treatment.

Through those treatments, David became known as "Brave Dave." Lora still gets stopped on the street by people who say, "You're Brave Dave's mom." "He'd always say, "Mama, Spider-Man's my hero,'" Lora recalled. "And I'd say, 'David, you're my hero. You are just an amazing little boy."

David passed away on August 23, 2004, just seven short months after his diagnosis. Lora had followed the doctor's orders and filled the final months of David's life with love and lots of playtime – making memories she will cherish forever. "He definitely was put on this Earth for a reason," Lora said. "He taught us to love each other more because you just don't know what can happen."

Brave Kids Bold Cures provides funding for advanced research and technology at Sanford Children's in Bismarck to help find better treatment options for kids like Brave Dave. Make sure no kid fights alone today.
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