NJ girl’s lasting legacy: Working toward a pediatric cancer cure
FREEHOLD — Olivia Lipnicky would have turned 9 last month. It was just before her 8th birthday last year that a family snowboarding trip led to an excruciating and persistent shoulder injury, which eventually led to the discovery of a tumor in Olivia's spinal cord.
Last March 1, Olivia was diagnosed with a diffuse midline glioma with an aggressive mutation that upgraded her condition to Stage IV. Doctors told the family the little girl had six to nine months to live, and to "go home and make memories."
According to Olivia's mother Emma, though, that was "not good enough" for the 8-year-old. Olivia said it was "not OK that kids don't have the ability to get better," her mom remembers, and so she organized a summer clothing drive that brought in $10,000 for pediatric cancer research.
From there came the idea for the Liv Like A Unicorn foundation. Before Olivia's passing on Nov. 6 of last year, her mother said, she was persistent about making sure a nonprofit designated for helping other kids would outlive her.
"Even when she was on hospice, in the hospital, unable to get out of bed, she would say every day, 'Mommy, did you get the paperwork done? Is my foundation official yet? Come on, Mom. What are you doing? Hurry up,'" Emma said.
Liv Like A Unicorn's mission is to help children with cancer diagnoses in general, but also more specifically those with DMGs like Olivia, or the more commonly known diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma.
Another key goal of the foundation is to encourage kids and adults alike to #BeTheGood, to pay forward random acts of kindness, because that was so important to Olivia.
"That was just her," Emma said. "The amount of empathy that she had at such a young age is something that I don't think that we see a lot in such young children."
The nonprofit is sponsoring a second annual clothing drive on May 17, partnering with the Trenton Thunder for a fundraising night on June 6, continuing a partnership with Jersey Freeze in Freehold, and even planning a gala event for September.
For more information, go to livlikeaunicorn.com.
Patrick Lavery is Senior Producer of Morning News and Special Programming for New Jersey 101.5, and is lead reporter and substitute anchor for "New Jersey's First News." Follow him on Twitter @plavery1015 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
More from New Jersey 101.5: