The Hang Tough Foundation was established to provide a comprehensive approach to taking care of the entire family that has a child affected by a chronic or life altering illness or special need in the Big Bend area.
The story of how it all started:
In August 2009, four year old Hayley Hart was diagnosed with B-Cell Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia. As family and friends gathered around Hayley to join her battle against cancer, the slogan “Hang Tough Hayley Hart” came to be.
Team Hang Tough Hayley Hart (HTHH) was formed to ride bicycles in Hayley’s honor in Race Across the West. As the race approached in June 2010, one of the men was unable to participate. One of the racers had an athletic coach out of Colorado Springs and Coach Brady Irwin was called in. The four men raced hard and won Race Across the West for the four man team category!
Likewise, Hayley Hart continued to Hang Tough and won her battle against cancer by finishing treatment in remission- in November 2011. Hayley continues to do well and has received her annual health clearance! Team HTHH decided that in order to celebrate Hayley’s victory, they should band together again, and do the full Race Across America in June of 2012. They honored Hayley and came in fourth place. The journey continues…
By this time, Brady Irwin had moved his wife, Janelle, and daughter, Katelyn, to Tallahassee and Janelle was pregnant with their second child. Six weeks after the race, Grayson Irwin was born-stout and healthy! Eleven days before his first birthday, August 2013-Grayson was diagnosed with Infant T-Cell Leukemia. The first person Janelle called was Hayley’s mom-Michelle.
Grayson and his family live by the slogan, “Tough As Nails” and he responded wonderfully to treatment. He continues to play with his trucks and motorcycles and loves to be outdoors on his scooter. Grayson completed his protocol in August of 2015 and is now CANCER FREE!
As Grayson underwent treatment, Janelle felt compelled to join Michelle and make her vision of a “Hang Tough House” come to life. Together, with the inspiration of Hayley and Grayson, the Hang Tough Foundation was born.
The vision for the Foundation is to serve families affected by all types of childhood illness in many ways. To list a few:
- Safe, play area for children who have compromised immune symptoms
- Sibling support groups and activities/Family support group activities
- Mommy/Daddy and Me classes – Fun activities, not medical related so kids and parents
- can foster positive relationships with one another<
- Tutors/Work assistance-help kids stay on track with academics
- Therapists and counselors
Building Hope. Building Commitment. Building Hang Tough Heroes.