Remembering Paulina with a race for a cure

Paulina Cooper died on September 21, 2004—the last day of summer. She was six years old. Paulina battled the same type of tumor as Rory. Although her family lives near Kansas City, Kansas, she also included Dr. Stewart Goldman of Children’s Memorial Hospital as one of her doctors. In her search for an organization that could benefit from an annual race established to honor her daughter’s memory, Ann Todd, Paulina’s mother, came upon The Rory David Deutsch Foundation website. She was struck by the similar paths of Rory and Paulina. “It was pretty amazing, and I wanted the proceeds of our event to go toward research of aggressive pediatric tumors,” Ann says. “The Foundation was a perfect fit.”

The 2nd Annual Paulina Cooper Dot-To-Dot 5K Run/Walk was held Saturday, August 23, in Kansas City. It drew runners and walkers of all ages who stepped up in the fight against cancer and in celebration of Paulina’s life. “We call it the ‘Dot-To-Dot’ race because of Paulina’s ability to connect with others and her reminder to us of the importance of staying connected in relationships with others and with God,” says Ann. The idea for the race came about through Ann’s conversations with her co-workers. “They all knew Paulina, and were touched by her strength and kindness,” she says. “Someone mentioned the idea of a race and it just evolved from there. We all came together and it took about eight months to organize the first race in 2007. With each step of planning, I’d be reminded of my little girl—her sweetness, gentleness, love of life, and that ability to reach out and connect. This race helps others get to know her and, hopefully, helps prevent the devastation of lives through its support of efforts to find a cure for childhood brain tumors.”

Paulina’s unique strength and character is perhaps best exemplified by a story that Ann shares in her own words below:

Paulina was in the last month of her life, when her body was failing. We had flown to California to visit my older sister in LA. After one long day of fun in the sun and swimming, Jimmy, Paulina’s four-year-old brother, comes into the bedroom where I was getting Paulina to bed. Jimmy says to me, ‘Mommy, I don’t want Paulina to die.’ Paulina was across the room in bed trying to sleep. I told Jimmy, ‘Paulina’s not going to die tonight. Let’s talk about it in the morning.’ Well, Paulina hears us talking, and despite having lost motor function on her right side, physically drags herself to where we are sitting. Jimmy looks at her and says, ‘Paulina, I don’t want you to die.’

I was so exhausted mentally and emotionally at the time. My mind was racing on what to say to be the support system for my children. Without any hesitation, Paulina, at six years old, takes that burden from me by saying, ‘Jimmy, I am going to try to stay alive for you as long as I can, but if the doctors can’t fix me then part of me is going to go to heaven and the other part of me will be in your heart forever.’ It was the most amazing moment in my life. To this day Jimmy terribly misses his sister and will sometimes break down. But, in the end, he always comes back to that conversation and will say, ‘You know Mommy, Paulina’s in my heart forever.’

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