The Little p Project aims higher in its second year, driven by a mother’s love and loss

“The most challenging part is having a child that's had to go through that horrific journey and then still immerse ourselves in that arena when we're still early in our grief, because it can also be very triggering.”

PARK CITY, Utah — The Little p Project Gala is taking place at the National Ability Center on May 11 at 6 p.m. for its second year. While last year’s inaugural event was a massive success, providing funding for pediatric cancer research, and financial support to families, the Mansson family has a mission to take it even further.

Heather Mansson, discusses the emotional and eye opening aspects of running a non-profit that always hits a little too close to home. Her daughter, Parker, was 11-years-old when she passed away two years ago from sarcoma.

“Our nonprofit is focused on furthering sarcoma research, as well as supporting financially compromised families at Primary Children’s Hospital undergoing cancer treatment,” Mansson said. “The most challenging part is having a child that’s had to go through that horrific journey and then still immerse ourselves in that arena when we’re still early in our grief, because it can also be very triggering.”

However, Mansson finds that supporting families and funding targeted research for sarcoma is purposeful, which motivates her to keep going.

“The rewarding part is the ability to help families with this diagnosis. The diagnosis in itself is really hard,” Mansson said.

“But on top of that, families are financially compromised: You’re dealing with treatment, travel, lodging and food. There are families out there that don’t have that ability to be with their kids full-time during treatment; whether both parents need to be at work or need to be home with other kids and they just financially cannot make that happen.”

Last year, The Little p Project raised over $120,000 to dedicate towards pediatric sarcoma research as well as providing financial support to families at Primary Children’s Hospital. $100,000 of that went to a research grant with the Children’s Oncology Group studying the proteins in sarcomas that have relapsed. This year, their goal is to raise another $100,000 to put towards that research, and hopefully more.

Mansson said that the remaining $20,000 they put towards support of the families at Primary Children’s Hospital wasn’t enough. Even with the financial support specifically allocated to families with children battling sarcomas, the mounting costs of families being away from home and work too quickly depletes the funds.

“The sarcoma department at Primary is very appreciative of the amount we have donated; however, they’ve also been very honest with me about how quickly they can go through that amount based on their family’s needs, and hearing that makes me want to raise more money to support those families,” Mansson said.

While familial support is crucial to Mansson, research is still a top priority for the Little p Project, and she is hopeful about the evolution of studies and trials for pediatric cancers.

“It’s exciting that we’re not just looking at recipes of different chemo options and upping this one and lowering that one. It’s more progressive in that they’re looking at immunotherapy; they’re looking at gene mutations with certain cancers,” Mansson said.

“What Parker had to go through was poison, burn, or cut, and unfortunately, with all that comes a lot of side effects that, as a parent, is hard to see your child go through. So, that’s been rewarding knowing that a shift in landscape of treatment options are on the horizon and we can help advance that.”

Mansson draws parallels between running a small business, and spearheading a charitable organization: including the need to find creativity in fundraising to small communities as well as leveraging impact can be a constant challenge.

“Being in a community on the smaller side, a great supportive community, is wonderful, but I want to be sure we are not fatiguing that support or asking too much from the same people,” Mansson said. “I am trying to be aware of that—so expanding our reach is a new goal this year.”

The Little p Project Gala is their largest event for the year, but Mansson is planning new initiatives. One fundraising event is being planned in North Carolina, their home prior to their move to Park City. They are also planning more intimate events like yoga/mindfulness retreats and pop-ups to boost fundraising efforts.

The hardest part of the business, Mansson shares, is the constant reminder of her personal loss. “Being in the cancer circle brings up a lot of the pain we’ve experienced with Parker,” she said. Yet, it’s this very personal connection that also brings the greatest feeling, fueling her commitment to help other families navigate their darkest times.

“Every step we take is a step towards a cure, and every dollar we raise is a testament to Parker’s enduring legacy.”

For those interested in donating to the Little p Project or to buy tickets to the Gala on May 11, visit the Little p Project website. 

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