Brick resident Monica Vermeulen can tell you from personal experience: "When you hear the words, 'Your child has cancer' it becomes a moment frozen in time."
That's because more than 20 years ago her daughter Ashley Lauren was diagnosed with kidney cancer.
"Many times we didn't know if we would have Ashley around much longer, but now she is a beautiful 24 year-old woman," Vermeulen said.
Living through the harrowing experience of her daughter's painful endurance of surgery, radiation and chemotherapy, stirred a passion she says, was so deep within her, to help other parents who walk that lonely, frightening road. In 2005, in her daughter's honor, she launched The Ashley Lauren Foundation to "offer hope and help for New Jersey children and their families when facing pediatric cancer."
Now the foundation has served more than 300 families, many of whose children have survived, and some who have not. The foundation seeks to meet the practical needs of families like rides to far away treatments, grocery money, childcare and, especially, someone to talk to who gets it.
"There is a very big sense of isolation when your child is ill," Vermeulen says. "When you've been there you have a connection."
The Ashley Lauren Foundation, which has its offices in Colts Neck, also grants wishes for children and offers services like art therapy. When Vermeulen, who lives in Brick, travels to speak about her foundation she carries with her some of the drawings from children the foundation has supported.
The drawings are at once witty and heartbreaking. Their subjects show the depths a child grows when he or she is faced with trauma beyond their years.
One drawing by a young artist named Jennifer is captioned, "Forgiveness is forgiving the doctor if he puts the needle in and finds out he put it in the wrong place and he has to put it in a second time. Just letting the incident float away."
To support the foundation's work Vermeulen and her board will host a fundraising event this weekend at the palatial Parmar estate in Colts Neck. The party will be a luau beside one of the properties man made lakes. Tickets are $75. For more information about the event visit .