Brady and Amanda Flamm know firsthand the heartache that comes from losing a child to cancer. Now, they are committed to bringing friendship, love, and financial support to other families with children battling cancer through a foundation that bears their daughter’s name: Millie’s Princess Foundation.
Millie’s Cancer Diagnosis
In 2010, Brady and Amanda Flamm’s son, Austin, was three born months premature. After months in the hospital, they brought him home. A brief time later, they learned their 4-year-old daughter Millie had Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia, a cancer of the bone marrow and lymphoid system.
“It was rough. It happened all at once, and it was also two weeks before Christmas,” says Brady.
That first month, the doctors prescribed Millie with steroids to help combat the chemotherapy. She gained 50 percent of their body weight.
“Millie was an emotional wreck. She was so upset that she was going to lose her hair that she wouldn’t open any Christmas presents. She was a positive kid, but the steroids changed her,” Brady recalls.
Millie endured six months of chemotherapy and then two years of maintenance. In 2012, she looked healthy, and her hair was growing back. Yet at Millie’s last treatment, Amanda had a bad feeling. She asked the doctor to check Millie’s bone marrow again. He said it was unnecessary, but Amanda persisted.
“As this point, we had known him a long time. He said he would check it if it would help us feel better,” says Brady.
The Flamms arrived home that day Friday to find friends, family, and neighbors cheering. They held signs and balloons to celebrate. Yet on Monday, the Flamms learned that there was cancer in Millie’s bone marrow, and she would need a transplant.
“It was hard to process with the celebration balloons still in the kitchen,” says Brady.
The Bone Marrow Transplant
Things got worse for the Flamms, and they spent a little over a year at the hospital. Even though 6-year-old Millie was at her lowest point, she got up one day and wrote “Stay Strong” on the window.
“It has always stuck with me,” says Brady. “I think life can be tough, but you’ve got to get through the worst of it to get to the best of it. No matter how bad she was, she would say her prayers every night pray by name for all the little cancer kids that she knew.”
Amanda says that Millie set a daily example for her by showing her that happiness was a choice. “Even in her darkest times Millie had a smile on her face and a colored pencil in her hand. Millie chose to be happy and lived by her own motto: ‘The grass is greener on our side, even with leukemia.’ She chose to be happy, and so will I.”
Millie’s Princess Run
When Millie was in the hospital, some friends and family wanted to do something to raise money to help the Flamms. Millie loved princesses, so they decided to call it “Millie’s Princess Run” in her honor and asked everyone to dress up.
“It was incredible,” says Brady. “A hospital is a lonely place. I worried as I sat there at night with the equipment beeping while Millie was asleep. It was very isolating, so when we showed up to the park with 750 people supporting us, it was overwhelming.”
Millie’s Princess Run organizers had so much fun that they decided to do it again the next year to help another family. The Flamms got involved to pay it forward. Unfortunately, only a few months after Millie’s bone marrow transplant, she relapsed again.
Honoring Millie’s Memory
“Things went downhill from there,” says Brady. “We did experimental treatments in other states. We really tried everything we could, but after a three-and-a-half-year battle with leukemia, we lost Millie in June 2013.”
A week after Millie’s funeral, the Flamms attended the second Princess Run.
“With Millie on the hearts and minds of everyone at the race, it was a powerful event of friends, families, and neighbors coming together in support,” says Amanda.
A month later, the Flamms’ friend who ran the Princess Run stepped down, and they felt that the next logical step would be for them to take over and run the foundation.
“We were so grateful to do something for other families with children who have cancer because we know we know firsthand how much we needed it,” says Brady.
Millie’s Princess Foundation
Today, the Princess Run is just one of the fundraising events hosted by Millie’s Princess Foundation. And over the last nine years, Millie’s Princess Foundation has raised $1.4 million for 140 families with kids fighting cancer.
“Often when you see commercials for childhood cancer fundraising, you see a sad, bald child with somber music playing. We want to move away from that. We like to celebrate the kids,” says Amy Olsen, the foundation’s social media coordinator.
Brady Flamm, who serves as the foundation’s president, agrees.
“We do them a disservice when we show them as poor, pathetic children. They are the strongest kids that you will ever meet. They cherish any chance they can to enjoy life. For us, it’s about highlighting them as heroes—how strong they are and how much fun they have,” he says. “Our fundraisers are about positivity and inspiration, not pity and sympathy. We want to raise money, but we also want to build hope and make it a fun experience.”
Because the foundation is volunteer-run, sponsors cover their overhead costs, allowing 100 percent of fundraiser proceeds to go directly to families.
“That’s what makes us different—we pick who we want to help. When we have someone who wants to do a fundraiser, we go find a family, and every penny goes to them,” Brady explains.
In April 2022, Millie’s Princess Foundation raised $20,000 by sponsoring an ice-skating recital. “The family we were helping got to be the center of attention on the ice and had a lot of fun,” he says.
In the fall, the foundation will host a fashion show, and at Christmastime, they will partner with local high schools to have the children come and be a part of assemblies or sporting events.
The foundation’ s largest fundraiser each year is still Millie’s Princess Run, held in June. Each year, they sponsor two kids—a princess and prince.
Princess Millie Jo
The princess this year was 5-month-old Millie Jo Berry. At 2 months old, she had torticollis, tightening of the neck muscles causing a head tilt. At her first physical therapy appointment, the physical therapist found a mass above her collarbone. Millie Jo was diagnosed with neuroblastoma, or nerve cancer. She is currently in her third round of chemotherapy.
Millie Jo’s mom, Jessica Berry, says she was impressed with the Flamms.
“It is such a touching story that they would take a tragedy in their life and turn it into something that is such a blessing for so many children and families,” she says. “I realized at the run that it is more than just a foundation—it is a community of people. They are holding you together when you feel like you are falling apart. They told us multiple times that we are family now. We are part of the Millie’s Princess Foundation family. The comfort and camaraderie mean so much to us.”
The prince this year was Dane Aviña. He is 14 years old. He plays baseball, football, and wrestles. He likes to play video games and hang out with his three brothers in his free time. In February 2022, he started having a lot of lower back pain. The pain spread to his stomach, then to his knees and ankles. Despite several doctor’s appointments, they couldn’t find anything wrong. Doctors shrugged it off to “growing pains.”
After a lot of heartache and several visits to different doctors, a chiropractor found some lumps under Dane’s skin. Eventually in April 2022, Dane was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin Anaplastic Large Cell Lymphoma or ALCL, a rare form of blood cancer. He is currently on his third round of chemotherapy.
Dane’s mother, Amanda Aviña, is extremely grateful for the Millie’s Princess Foundation community.
“There was suddenly a group of people that related to us. Their love and support were amazing. When I first talked to Brady, we talked about the run, of course, but it was more like he was checking in on us to see what we needed. [The Flamms] get what are going through, and they can truly help because of it,” she says.
To learn more about Millie’s Princess Foundation, visit milliespf.org.
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