Childhood Cancer Survivor Leads Other Children Through Runway to Hope
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Childhood Cancer Survivor Leads Other Children Through Runway to Hope

Childhood cancer survivor Lauren Larsen knows what it’s like to fight for her life and now she’s enjoying the fruits of her victory.

The 20-year-old art and theater student was diagnosed at age 3 with acute lymphoblastic leukemia. Fortunately, it was treatable, and from 2006 to 2008, she underwent chemotherapy.

Thanks to a phenomenon called “childhood amnesia” which can protect a child from trauma, she does not remember much about the treatments themselves. 

“I remember small details like being at Ronald McDonald house and going to Disneyworld as a Make-a-Wish kid,” she said. 

With the therapy a success, she went on to have a normal childhood in Melbourne. 

“The beach is my favorite part of this town. I grew up body surfing and boogie boarding. Being in the water has always been a big part of my life,” Larsen said.

Another big part of her life has been Runway to Hope, a fundraiser fashion show where kids with cancer are the models. Runway to Hope raises millions of dollars for cancer research and financial support for families. Since its inception, it’s provided nearly a million dollars in family aid to over 600 families. 

Larsen joined Runway to Hope in 2016. 

“We saw an advertisement in The Mall at Millenia Magazine. I was always into fashion, so it was up my alley,” she said.

The models are invited to Bloomingdales to pick an outfit to model. Lauren was a model her first year, and after that, became an ambassador, someone who accompanies the child on his or her quest for the perfect look and escorts them down the runway. 

“We help the kids pick out their outfits and share our experiences (with cancer). My parents talk to their parents. It’s a great night for kids who are struggling. They can forget about being on treatment and get all dressed up, shine on the runway, and be themselves. It’s a really fun night,” she said.

The next Spring Soiree and auction is May 4 at the Rosen Shingle Creek Resort in Orlando. Larsen said she enjoys meeting the volunteer celebrities from local DJs to singers, actors and even dancers from Dancing With the Stars.

Larsen, too, has hopes of making her own impact in the entertainment industry. She’s working on her associate degree in arts at Eastern Florida State College, participating in theater productions there. Her next performance is a showcase of scenes from various plays.

She also sings in the Brevard Community Chorus. They are performing Dan Forrest’s Jubilate Deo on April 6 at the King Center for the Performing Arts in Melbourne.

Larsen figures her career may take her away from home at some point. 

“I want to be a performer. I don’t know where that will take me. Right now, I’m kind of figuring it all out and taking advantage of opportunities here,” she said.

As she looks to her own future, she wants any child with cancer and their parents to fight for theirs.

“Keep fighting. It can be challenging. Cancer is a horrible thing, but there can be light at the end of the tunnel. Try to stay positive , even when it feels impossible. Keep fighting for your life every day.”

Learn More

Runway for Hope: runwaytohope.org
12th Annual Runway for Hope Spring Soiree tickets: runwaytohope.org/springsoiree2024
Brevard Community Chorus: brevardcommunitychorus.org/

Lauren Larsen on Instagram: @laurenkathrynnnn 

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