Awareness that childhood cancer is not rare. Approximately 1 in 285 children in the U.S. will be diagnosed with cancer before their 20th birthday. Awareness that before cancer entered their lives, all of the kids and young people we share were just living their lives – going to little league practice, doing their homework, and fighting with their siblings.
Gratefulness that kids DO survive, they do fight and win. In fact, in developed countries, 80% of kids will go on to fight another day. And for those who don’t, we still feel grateful that we got to know them, love them and be a witness to their life.
Lastly, we wanted to build community. Having a child with cancer is so isolating. And to know that there are friends, family and so many others who acknowledge that fight, gratefulness, awareness helps them feel less alone. And this is precisely what happens when the same people show up virtually year after year. A community forms around this simple idea, #kidsgetcancertoo.
If this will be your first time or your ninth time eating with us… THANK YOU for being a part of our community. ❤️
Eat Ice Cream for Breakfast day falls on Malia Grace Peterson’s birthday and is run by her Mom and Aunt. We do what we do for the love of Malia.
A little about our team. Annette and Alisa are two Minnesota girls who are passionate about righting the wrongs in the world and giving back to those who have given much to them.
They are two out of three sisters (love you Amy), who work hard to support their families at their day jobs and volunteer their time to run Eat Ice Cream for Breakfast every year.
Annette Peterson (left) is a wife, mom to three beautiful girls (including Malia), a nurse, an active member of her church, and a chatty introvert who lights up every room she is in.
Alisa Matheson (right) is also a mom, an independent contractor, and a city-loving girl, who enjoys true crime documentaries, reality TV, and staying home. She was also an aunt/partner in crime to Malia, hosting sleepovers, marshmallow fights, and generally causing a ruckus.
Malia’s family wanted to do something to commemorate her birthday after she died. Birthdays, anniversaries of diagnosis, entering hospice, and of the day she entered heaven are all crazy hard, crazy strange days. Malia’s mom says, “the first couple years after her passing it seemed wrong to let the days just slip by quietly, but we struggled how to celebrate when our hearts were broken into a million pieces.”
Malia LOVED ice cream and when on the last family trip together on her Make-A-Wish trip, her family had ice cream for breakfast at giving Kids the World.
In 2013, they built on that memory and invited about 50 of their closest family and friends to join them in a virtual birthday party on Facebook. They joined in droves and took pictures of themselves eating ice cream for breakfast and then posted the pictures on Malia’s parent’s social media.
In the creative style of Malia’s spirit, people sent pictures from Malls, drive-thru’s, kitchen tables, couches, and cars. They took pictures of their cats getting a sweet lick or two. They were silly and crazy and smiling and laughing in every single picture, and as Malia’s Mom sat in front of our computer screen at home the tears fell. She wept for the loss of time with Malia. She wept for the joy of knowing her celebration in heaven was outdoing this one by a long shot. She wept because she felt so very deeply loved through all of those pictures.
She says, “It got our family through the day with a lot of laughter mixed with those tears and gave us something to look forward to all day as the pictures kept coming in. All day my other two daughters would say, “Let’s check the computer again, Mom!”.
Malia’s uncle suggested that Malia’s family event become a national holiday. So on a whim, a graphic was made and shared on Facebook.* Within days, it went viral and over 1,600 people from 12 nations joined in to eat for childhood cancer awareness. And 55 cancer kids and their families were honored and over 85,000 people heard the message that kids get cancer too.
*And just to everyone humble, the first graphic has a misspelled word. It was fixed with a sticker, and was continued to be shared!
This year a new tradition began of featuring childhood cancer kids and those who love them, in the “Featured Kids” section. Seven kids’ families joined, including some resting, fighting and celebrating from childhood cancer. Watching their family’s stories evolve has been one of the joys and struggles of doing this year after year. Some of our featured kids have gone on to live full lives, some are still fighting and some have passed away. No matter what happened, the hope is they had more moments of joy because we joined their fight.
Along with the featured kids, social media blew up this year and there were people in 83 nations eating including Kevin Bacon, Shawn Ashmore, news stations across the USA, over 100 cancer kids, and over 6,000 adults. And stats from the Facebook Page alone in the month of February show that 147,057 people heard the message that kids get cancer too.
Along with nine featured kids, 75 other childhood cancer kids shared their stories and almost 200,000 folks saw, shared, or posted, including Kevin Bacon for the second year running. Another highlight was seeing just how international the day had become, but seeing a news story from Nambia about Eat Ice Cream for Breakfast Day.
Along with all this publicity came some haters as well, with statements like “sugar causes cancer” and “ice cream is so unhealthy”. Malia’s family has decided to delete these comments onsite because as all cancer families know, it’s not actually about the ice cream (and no one recommends be a daily occurrence). It’s about being childlike, about meeting kids where they are at and rejoicing if they want to eat anything at all during treatment.
A cancer momma sent this to me, “ My daughter, Sophia, was diagnosed with Ependymoma brain cancer and endured multiple resections and shunt replacements. She woke up from her last surgery and shocked us by asking for ice cream. She had a feeding tube in place for 8 months and had been refusing to eat. I was just about at my breaking point. I will never ever forget that day. I actually sobbed when she asked for ice cream.”
This year eight kids and youth were featured, many of whom are known personally by Malia’s family. 2017 highlighted the friends that become like family, that you develop as you walk the road of childhood cancer.
The thing about becoming a cancer kid (and family) is that your circle becomes full of other cancer kids and families. You see their kiddos heal, sometimes fighting the effects of chemo and radiation, you see them fight like hell for health and sometimes you stand by them as they plan a funeral. You ride the rollercoaster of emotions with each new diagnosis all over again. Yet, through it all, you support one another
Five featured kids invited THEIR friends, family, and support circles to share selfies, and they showed up! One of the unsung heroes of this day is the people who do not have a child with cancer but eat to support those who do. Those with cancer kiddos need the support and you eating ice cream does that.
2019 was a different year for Eat Ice Cream for Breakfast Day, as Malia’s family still ate, supported, and honored kiddos, but did everything with somber hearts. Because, Malia would have been 18 years old today and would have been celebrating her golden birthday, but instead of celebrating together, her family was only able to remember her. Childhood cancer is hard and sometimes the hardness of that hits like a ton of bricks.
In 2020, we featured adult survivors of childhood cancer along with kids who are fighting, resting, and partying. Because we know that there are lifelong effects of childhood cancer, to those who survive. And also to bring a little hope at the end of the tunnel for families, children, and teens still in treatment.
Like the rest of the world, COVID hit our event hard and we didn’t have any featured kids. BUt we did eat and honor, remember and party on with some amazing kids and their families.
I see the gratefulness of parents and grandparents online who feel loved and supported in that fight or in their grief, and it is mind-blowing. It means so much to them to be remembered. To be acknowledged. To feel loved. Who knew ice cream could do all that?
I had no idea (that so many children have cancer). It was a bit of a shock and I teared up a lot reading all the posts with the pictures. …I’m grateful for the day that I have been made aware of the numbers.
It was a reminder of how many kids are affected by cancer! makes me appreciate my girls and be thankful for each day I get to do silly things like eat ice cream for breakfast!
So many other cancers are very public but childhood cancer is not. We love that this is fun, easy, supportive, and mostly it brings awareness!
We ate ice cream because we are glad my daughter can. (Two years in remission)
Another reason to celebrate life. A lot of amazing kids were lost too soon. There are still so many fighting.
It meant a huge amount to me that I could post a picture of my precious daughter and have her fight recognized by others. I hadn’t expected to feel like that.
We were all at our own breakfast tables but united in support for those that have an empty space at their table.
Seeing the support of friends and family eating ice cream and celebrating with our girl was amazing. I got teary-eyed seeing all the posts.
It meant that our Angels are never forgotten and that the fighters have backup.
**We want this day to be all about childhood cancer awareness, so we don’t fund-raise or promote other sites or cancer resources, or promote adult cancer awareness or other special needs. Those are all wonderful things, but this day is all about fun, ice cream, and awareness.