By Susan Nolan
Sisters 5-year-old Stella and 2-year-old Scarlett were excited to see their first ballet. Their mom Morgan Griffin is excited, too—and thankful. The family’s tickets to Ballet Theatre of Maryland’s performance of The Nutcracker came courtesy of Casey Cares Foundation, a Howard County-based non-profit that provides experiences for critically ill children and their families throughout the Mid-Atlantic.
Scarlett was only 4 months old when she was diagnosed with stage 4 intermediate-risk neuroblastoma, a rare cancer that usually forms in immature nerve cells in the adrenal glands. Most patients with neuroblastoma are diagnosed before age 5, and research indicates that it can form in utero. Treatment for this deadly disease includes surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation. Scarlett finished treatment in January 2021 and is now in remission, but her condition will continue to be monitored through regularly scheduled MRIs and other tests.
“Scarlett was diagnosed in July 2020, at the height of the Covid pandemic,” recalled Griffin. Social workers at Johns Hopkins Hospital recommended she contact Casey Cares Foundation.
“Most of Casey Cares’ programs involve going places and, of course, we couldn’t do that then,” she said. “But they sent care packages and gift cards, and it was uplifting to know people were thinking about our family.”
Last year, the Griffin family watched the ballet company perform The Nutcracker from their Edgewater home through a live stream arranged by Casey Cares. This week, the family attended a VIP rehearsal in person at Ballet Theatre of Maryland’s performance venue in Annapolis. “The girls watched and danced around (last year),” said Griffin. “I think they are going to love seeing it on stage.”
The ballet company has partnered with Casey Cares since 2007. This year, they provided 22 families with tickets to the VIP dress rehearsal performance. “This is a special production that we look forward to each Nutcracker season and we are so proud to be a partner of Casey Cares to share this bright holiday tradition with families,” said Brenna Mazzara, Ballet Theatre of Maryland’s community engagement coordinator.