Tucked inside the One Wells Fargo Center in uptown Charlotte, you’ll find our next featured “Portrait of Courage”. She’ll be perched with a smile behind the register — and firmly in command — at the Omnibus Gift Shop. Her name is Kelly LaFlash — known to her family and friends as “Fuzzy”. She works hard each week managing all aspects of this cards and sundries outfit and serving her long-time customer base. And while she does that job really well, she is also on an important mission each day that’s very close to her heart.
When I sat down with Fuzzy it was instantly clear that she was on a mission. She wore a childhood cancer awareness sweatshirt adorned with gold ribbon pins and cancer buttons. Her wrists were covered in silicone bracelets sporting messages of hope and healing. There was no mistaking her billboard of passion for childhood cancer awareness. Why so visual, you ask?
Fuzzy was diagnosed with metastatic Rhabdomyosarcoma at the tender age of 14, after some persistent nosebleeds, coughing, and colds. She also had a lump on the side of her neck. It was during a related tonsil and adenoid surgery that the surgeon discovered a tumor in her nasopharynx. An intense chemotherapy and radiation treatment schedule followed, which led her family to give her the nickname “Fuzzy” (like the nursery rhyme Fuzzy Wuzzy) as her long locks fell out.
It is truly miraculous and joyful knowing that Fuzzy is with us today as a 34-year survivor. WOW! And with that incredible statistic through courage comes some important life lessons that she’d like to share with all of us.
Childhood cancer research receives very little funding, so all of us can do our part to make a critical difference. I know firsthand that every penny does count! Fuzzy maintains a donation jar on her checkout counter at Omnibus, and her loyal customer base throws in a bit of change here and there for whatever the current fundraiser is (She raises money at any given time for sarcoma and other pediatric cancer research through CureSearch, the Jeff Gordon Children’s Foundation, Still Brave Cancer Foundation, St. Baldrick’s Foundation, Isabella Santos Foundation, Claire’s Army, Kick-it for Kids’ Cancer, Cookies for Kids’ Cancer, and the Paula Takacs Foundation). These random money tosses into her jar have resulted in approximately $6,000 in donations to these nonprofits over the last 5 years! Simply remarkable!
So I hope you’ll drop by the Omnibus Gift Shop and see Fuzzy one of these days. She personifies ‘courage.’ Drop a coin in the jar, give her a hug, and tell her that she is an amazing Portrait of Courage.Back to Latest news