During his few short years of life, Cade Filer loved superheroes. He would dress up as his favorite characters during Halloween.
At age 2, Cade’s parents remember him best as an intrepid toddler, full of energy, playful and charming. But like every good guy in a comic book tale, unfortunately, Cade had a villain. His was in the form of medulloblastoma cancer.
“He was just a normal kid who was happy and full of life. Then it happened,” said his mother, Jill Filer.
Cade would point to the back of his head and complain of the pain. Local doctors ordered a CT scan that would later confirm the news that no parents would ever want to hear about their child.
Doctors found a brain tumor, and in February 2002, Cade began treatment for the disease at Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City.
While he fought hard, Cade unfortunately lost his battle with brain cancer a year after his diagnosis, just two weeks before his fourth birthday.
After Cade passed away, his parents, Bill and Jill Filer, Harrisonville, wanted to do something to keep their son’s memory alive – and to help other families who are dealing with similar battles and villains.
The cancer fight
For Cade, the headaches would not go away. That’s when the family’s pediatrician recommended a CT scan. After the scan revealed a brain tumor, the Filer family was immediately sent to Children’s Mercy Hospital where Cade had brain surgery the following day.
CMH soon became a frequented place by Cade, where he endured chemotherapy and radiation treatments.
The family spent four weeks straight at the hospital as Cade underwent a stem cell transplant in August 2002.
“We pretty much lived at the hospital that month,” Jill Filer said.
The treatments worked for a while, but the cancer came back in November and had spread to his spine. Cade underwent radiation for the cancer, but the additional treatment was unsuccessful.
After a trip to Disney World through a program called Give Kids the World in January, Cade died a month later on Feb. 28, 2003.
Getting past the pain
Naturally, it took time for Cade’s parents to heal from the pain and difficulty of losing a child.
But as emotional healing came in time, Bill and Jill Filer wanted to give back in a way that would honor Cade’s life.
“Since Cade passed, we wanted to do something, but it was hard to figure out what that was going to be,” Jill Filer said. “We didn’t want to make people sad about it, but we wanted it to be a celebration and kid-oriented.”
They came up with the idea of a birthday party event to celebrate Cade and that would enable them to also raise awareness for the Child Life Department at CMH.
The Filers said that the Child Life services made their hospital stays bearable, and helped their son retain a bit of normalcy through his cancer treatment by ensuring that there are toys, crafts, games, movies and activities for him to enjoy.
The personal attention was noteworthy.
During Cade’s time in the hospital, his parents could giggle as a music therapist came in to sing silly songs on her guitar while he was being poked and prodded. He could color and play games as he waited to have his port cleaned.
On the day of Cade’s stem cell transplant, Child Life specialists covered his hospital room walls with posters of Thomas the Train – another one of his favorite toys – which let him know that it was a special day and that he was a special 3-year-old boy.
“Beyond just providing games, activities, and toys, Child Life made Cade’s hospital stays less scary,” Bill Filer said. “Each successive visit to the hospital became just a little bit easier.”
It was an easy decision for the Filers to decide that their way of giving back would be to raise financial support for the hospital’s Child Life program.
The “Birthday Party for Children’s Mercy Hospital” coincides with Cade’s birthday on March 13.
In honor of Cade, the Filers made a pledge last year to donate a $25,000 financial gift to the hospital over the next five years. They are already about half-way toward completing their goal, and earlier this month, Bill and Jill Filer, along with their second son, Evan, 11, had the opportunity to dedicate an office area in the transplant area of the hospital’s Hematology/Oncology floor.
“Jill and I have mentioned this before, but the community support was amazing during Cade's illness, and that support has continued on regarding the birthday party,” Bill Filer said. “Our family, friends and the community at large have really stepped up to get us closer to our fundraising goal. (I) can't begin to tell everyone how much we truly appreciate all that they have done.”
This year’s party is 2-4 p.m. Saturday, March 1, at the Harrisonville Community Center, 2400 Jefferson Pkwy.
Saturday’s event will mark the sixth birthday party celebration hosted by the Filer family.
The theme: “Calling all Superheroes.”
“Several Halloween costumes when he was 1 and 2 were superheroes,” Jill Filer said.
Attendees are invited to dress in their favorite superhero (or princess) costumes.
“Pretty much every year, (the birthday party) has a theme of something Cade liked,” Jill Filer said. “One year it was Thomas the Train, last year’s was sea creatures.”
In other years, there’s been a Bob the Builder theme, and a rescue hero theme at another party.
While the event is a “birthday” party, with plenty for the kids to do, the Filers invite members of the community to come learn more about the Child Life program.
“It’s been a great way to bring family and friends together,” Jill Filer said. “It’s a happy way to celebrate him.”
The “admission” to the event is free, however, there will be an opportunity to give a "birthday gift" to CMH in the form of a donation.
Individuals interested in bringing a gift of a toy can find a wish-list list of items the hospital is in need of on the Facebook event page for the party.
There will be plenty of cake and ice cream at the party, along with a host of superhero-themed carnival games for kids, including “Pin the Shield on Captain America” and “Bowl over the Villains.”
The Harrisonville Fire Department, Harrisonville Police Department, and Children’s Mercy Hospital will have emergency vehicles on display.
Various businesses, along with local teachers and students, from across Cass County have assisted with the costs of hosting the party, as well as developing games, making decorations the birthday cake. Other school groups also do fundraising initiatives throughout the year for CMH, in addition to helping with the annual birthday party.
Online gifts can also be given through CMH’s website, http://give.childrensmercy.org/
birthdaybenefit. Information about the birthday party can be found on Facebook by searching for “Birthday Party for CMH.”