If you live in central and northern Wisconsin, you have probably been touched by Treyden Kurtzweil's life story.
Treyden, the son of Travis and Cassie Kurtzweil of Stratford, contracted acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL) at age 2-1/2 months and battled this aggressive cancer until his passing last June. Treyden had just celebrated his first birthday.
Pictured above: Cassie and Travis Kurtzweil with Dr. Michael McManus.
Despite his young age, Treyden left behind a legacy. Thanks to the Internet, thousands of people around the world – from close to home to all across the United States and even as far as Japan and the United Kingdom – have also followed his story closely.
While Treyden was sick, Cassie started a Facebook page, Saving Treyden.
She shared her experiences – and her frustrations – on her Facebook page. Her open, honest and emotional postings gained a huge following, with as many as 126,000 people checking it.
Even though Treyden lost his battle with ALL, his memory lives on. His parents are working closely with Marshfield Clinic Development to transform a very ordinary pediatric hematology/oncology family waiting room into something that will capture the imagination of young cancer patients and their parents. It's called "Treyden's Cabin."
The Kurtzweils partnered with Marshfield Clinic to raise $50,000 to name the family waiting room, Treyden's Cabin. On August 1, efforts began to reach the $50,000 goal. In just three short months, thanks to hundreds of donors, volunteer fundraisers and other supporters, the goal was met.
An anonymous donor couple, who had just recently learned about Treyden's story, made a generous gift of $17,268 to reach the $50,000 goal exactly. The husband is battling his second bout with cancer and together, they decided they wanted to "show those affected by cancer that other cancer patients care." The donors found true joy in their ability to put smiles on the faces of many.
"Transforming the new pediatric cancer care area into a child-friendly and engaging environment for our patients and families is one of our priorities this year," said Teri Wilczek, the Clinic's chief development officer. When she talked to Dr. Michael McManus, a pediatric hematologist/oncologist who was Treyden's cancer care specialist, he suggested talking to the Kurtzweils about doing some exciting things with the room and naming it in honor of Treyden. She did, and their response came quickly.
"We were pretty honored," Cassie said. "We are beyond excited to see what these walls are going to look like in the end. We were told to dream big and that is exactly what we are doing." To Travis, having the opportunity to memorialize his son "was awesome. You just don't hear something like that every day."
For the 10 months that Treyden was sick, Cassie took a leave from her job and lived almost exclusively in medical centers. Although Travis continued working, he spent every available moment with Cassie and Treyden. Because of their experience, they both had plenty of suggestions for how to create a special space in the family waiting room. "We started mentioning things that we thought would make it better for the children as well as the parents," Travis noted.
"Can you imagine sitting in a room…four walls just blah?," Cassie said in her first Facebook posting about Treyden's Cabin. "For a short period of time it may not be bad, but to continually sit in a room where there's nothing to keep your child occupied?? I can tell you from our experience Treyden was easily distracted with bright colors or things that moved." Her intent is to make the room "come alive with color and trees, and animals and of course rainbows. We want to encourage children's imagination and captivate them and put them at ease, so they forget they are at the doctor."
"These kids have to give up so much, but if we can give them the feeling as if they are in a different place for any amount of time, that will make me happy," she said. One of Cassie's new friends printed out everything that has been posted and put it all in five large, three-ring binders so she can go back and look at them at any time.
Many people have already volunteered to help with Treyden's Cabin. Some of them are launching their own fundraising activities, with support from Marshfield Clinic Development. (See next page.) Others are making donations directly to the project.
Other naming opportunities in the pediatric oncology/hematology department are available. These include two treatment rooms at $20,000 each, and three exam rooms at $10,000 each. Making these spaces comforting and visually appealing is important because a typical child with cancer has at least 150 Clinic visits over their treatment period.
In addition, donors may choose to contribute to the Krause Family Pediatric Cancer Angel Fund, which assists families of young patients who are experiencing financial hardships because of their child's medical condition. This fund provides gas cards, hotel stays, groceries, transportation, medical equipment and other supplies to support the child's recovery and quality of life.
To contribute to Treyden's Cabin or the Krause Family Pediatric Cancer Angel Fund, contact Teri Wilczek at 1-800-858-5220 or
120 Miles for Treyden
Barb Klinner (left) and supporters on her run. (Photo courtesy of Daily Herald Media.)
Barb Klinner of Wausau isn't your average marathoner. She has run several 100-mile ultra runs around the country. On October 26 and 27, Barb embarked on her longest run – this time for a heartfelt cause.
Klinner decided to run '120 Miles for Treyden' – ten miles for each month Treyden Kurtzweil lived. Although this was farther than Barb has ever run, she wanted to recognize that Treyden "went the distance." He and his family were her inspiration.
"The opportunity to honor the Kurtzweils became apparent when I read about their dream of creating a beautiful family-focused pediatric oncology waiting room at Marshfield Clinic—Treyden's Cabin." says Klinner. "I've been a long-distance runner for a long time and I knew I could put that passion to meaningful use in some type of tribute to Treyden." Barb lost her brother to Leukemia two years ago.
Tackles for Treyden's Cabin
Donna Fetting, Physical Therapist at Marshfield Clinic, set out to challenge the Marshfield Area Youth Football teams to come together and make a difference in the lives of children with cancer. Donna was motivated to help, realizing how lucky she is to have three healthy sons. Each player was sent home with a fundraising sheet and the team that raised the most money received a pizza party.
Columbus Dons Youth Football also joined the fun by allowing the top fundraiser to select a coach to get a pie in the face.
Popcorn or cupcake, or both?
Last year, Kristine Federwitz of Edgar High School created an annual cupcake baking competition with her Culinary Club to support local causes. In their second year, Kris and her students chose Treyden's Cabin to be their inspiration.
Hundreds of cupcakes came through the doors on the morning of October 6, and the lemon-flavored popcorn cupcake won first prize.
Thank you to the following individuals and businesses for supporting Treyden's Cabin:
Merle Norman and The Day Spa Boutique
Curves of Marshfield
Buck-A-Neer Supper Club
Baymont Inn & Suites
Marshfield Senior High Student Council
Owen-Withee School District
Holy Rosary, Medford
Kelly Kerchefski and Beth Slowinski
Columbus Catholic Schools
Columbia St. Mary's