If you have ever had the opportunity to participate in the New York Brain Tumor Walk since its inception in 2011, you’ve no doubt seen the large throng of walkers adorned in bright colored regalia. In 2011 it was purple and green. In 2012 it was neon green and orange. And in 2013 it was grey with a hefty splash of pink.
This was Team Sweet Emily, and they were the event’s top fundraising team in 2011 and 2012, and the second-leading fundraising team in 2013. And Emily Morrison, the team’s namesake, was the top individual fundraiser in each of these years.
For all of those involved in the New York event Emily was a pillar of the annual Walk; besides her fundraising effort she also served on the volunteer planning committee. Emily’s exuberance was infectious. Her gregarious nature and welcoming smile were hallmarks of the New York event, and certainly befitting of her team’s name of “Sweet Emily.”
But Emily’s life transcended “sweet.” She could also be fittingly described by those of us who knew her though her incredible efforts on behalf of the National Brain Tumor Society as “tenacious.”
Emily was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor in April of 2011, a week before her 24th birthday. It was a Thursday night. By that Saturday she was having the first of three consecutive brain surgeries just to ease the symptoms the tumor was causing. She spent 31 straight days in the hospital, including her birthday, but it didn’t slow her spirit.
While still in her hospital bed Emily began fundraising after hearing about the first-ever New York Brain Tumor Walk. Just two months later, on June 18th, 2011 (though much of the time had been spent undergoing treatment) Team Sweet Emily was the inaugural Walk’s top fundraising team.
As her tumor returned and continued to progress, eventually causing her to lose sight in her right eye, Emily’s attitude and purpose were not dimmed. She continued to fight to raise awareness and funds for the brain tumor cause, knowing that even if she could not benefit from all of her hard work, maybe others in the future might.
All told, this amazing young woman raised nearly $60,000 for the National Brain Tumor Society herself, and almost $100,000 through Team Sweet Emily. Emily was also a fierce advocate for the brain tumor cause on a national level through social and traditional media. Her story was highlighted in media outlets like CBS radio in New York, CURE magazine, Self magazine, the Wall Street Journal, and more. Emily blogged about her journey, always with the most positive spin, and inspired countless others through speaking roles at events for not only the National Brain Tumor Society, but also the young adult cancer group Stupid Cancer.
Emily was a leading voice in the brain tumor community. Her spirit and determination, even in the face of the most difficult of diagnosis, inspired all of us here at the National Brain Tumor Society. Emily sadly passed away Saturday after her heroic two-year battle. Today our thoughts are with Emily’s family and friends. She will be missed dearly, but her efforts for this community will never be forgotten.
“If you’re feeling helpless, help someone else.”– Emily Morrison.