No mother should ever have to experience what Jaime King is going through.
Earlier this year, her youngest daughter, 6-year-old Katherine “Katie” King, began having vision and hearing problems. Jaime took Katie to an optometrist, who told her Katie’s eyes were fine but that she should see a “brain doctor.” Instead, Jaime King took her daughter to three pediatricians. Collectively, they said Katie had probably swallowed pills, had low iron or a virus. One doctor called the optometrist a “quack.”
Trusting her instincts, Jaime King took Katie to the emergency room of CHOC Children’s. That same day, June 2, she and her husband received the worst news a parent could ever hear: Katie had DIPG, an inoperable and malignant brain tumor with a 100-percent mortality rate. The average life expectancy after diagnosis is nine months.
Old and new friends quickly mobilized. They banded together to support the Kings, launching an ambitious social media campaign to publicize Katie’s plight. They also partnered with Clothes for the Cause, a group that collects old clothing, sells it for cash, and shares a portion of the proceeds with those in need, such as the King family.
On Sunday, Dec. 13, mothers, executives, Fullerton police officers and other community members brought bags of old pants, shirt and shoes to Bootlegger’s Brewery in Fullerton as part of a major clothing drive to raise money for Katie.
At the brewery, volunteers, many clad in gray sweatshirts with Katherine The Brave – Katie’s hashtag and the name of her Facebook page – emblazoned across the front. They tossed black garbage bags onto a 26-foot truck, thanked the donors who had brought them, and shared hugs and tears with Jaime King, her husband David King and their daughters Toriana, 17, Alissa, 16 and little Katie.
“I’m here for Katie and the King Family,” said Kelly Livingston, a close family friend. “It’s a morale builder and will help pay for Katie’s medical bills and things on Katie’s fun wishes list.”
In mid-January, insurance will stop covering Katie’s panobinostat, which has shown effectiveness in shrinking tumors in mice. The drug costs $12,000 per month, an expense the Kings will soon have to assume.
Jaime King was left nearly speechless by the outpouring of support her family received at the Bootlegger’s event.
“I feel very, very, very lucky and honored to have these people around me,” said Jaime King, fighting off tears as Katie, ashen and visible unwell, stood nearby. “This is something I’ll never forget.”
Added her husband David King: “I’m taken aback by this. It’s almost surreal. We’re the type of family that’s here helping to load the truck for other families. Now, we’re on the other end of it.”
Days earlier, the Kings had received devastating news: Katie’s tumor was growing again after radiation treatments had shrunk it significantly, an ominous development.
Still, her family found some solace in the support network that has grown up around them. “It’s good to do this, but the reasons that brought us together isn’t good,” said Toriana King, Katie’s older sister and a senior at Esperanza High School in Anaheim.
Fullerton Police Chief Dan Hughes was among the 20 city officers, cadets and spouses who spent their Sunday morning at Bootlegger’s. He and other Fullerton law enforcement personnel unloaded the mountain of bagged clothing donated by officers, enough to fill four police vehicles.
“We saw Katie’s story and it really touched our hearts,” said Hughes, who personally contributed a few bags of clothing. “As a police department, we want to give back to the community, and I can think of no better way to give back than to help those who need it most: kids.”
Sgt. Kathryn Hamel of the Fullerton PD said she and others in the department participated in the event simply to “make Katie’s days the best possible.”
Katie’s illness struck a deep chord for Officer Katie Cappuccio of the Cal State Fullerton Police Department.
“It’s heartbreaking, to be honest,” said the mother of a 1-year-old boy. “Anything we can do to help her and her family is worth it.”
The event raised $2,067.75 for the Kings, with community members contributing 13,285 pounds of used clothing, which filled one-and-a-half trucks.
To date, supporters have raised more than $5,000 through clothing donations and merchandise sales, including jewelry, mugs and customized Katie bracelets, among other items, said Jenni Parker, a longtime friend of Jaime King who has taken on the role of chief fundraiser.
“In our world now, everything is so bad,” she said, “but the love and humanity I’ve seen here is amazing.”
That love and humanity buoyed Jaime King’s spirits, at least temporarily. She said the family hopes to use some of the money from the fundraiser for an RV trip up the coast, one of her daughter’s biggest wishes.
“She wants to see the beach and ‘camp’ in an RV,” she said with a laugh.
Additional photos of Katie provided by her family: