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Today we remember Carly. The sweet girl who started Carly’s Club would have turned 29.

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I share this story each year on Carly’s birthday and will continue to do so for as long as I am around! Carly Collard Cottone was a kind, giving and wonderful little girl. Her legacy left behind is so so big.

We are so lucky to have so many people in our community who truly care about others. Who give ’til it’s gone. Who open their hearts and wallets to help make a difference. There are so many amazing charities here. At the top of the list, one of my favorites, is Carly’s Club (Now called Courage of Carly Fund). Years and years ago, as a television reporter, I was assigned a story to cover about a little girl’s legacy. About a charity that was just getting started. A charity that was helping kids with cancer. I remember getting in the news car after the interview and sobbing like a baby. I remember being so angry thinking about how unfair life could be. And man, I remember being incredibly inspired. By a little girl I had never met. I continue to be inspired by her.


If you don’t know the story about how Carly’s Club started, let me fill you in.

It was 1999, when Carly Collard Cottone, just 8-years-old, was diagnosed with Medulloblastoma – an aggressive form of brain cancer. The tumor was removed, and Carly underwent radiation treatment at Roswell Park. This sweet little girl – in what is the most cruel of realities – had already lost her mother and father to cancer during the first seven years of her life. Still, she was one tough cookie. She was courageous, optimistic and strong. She decided very early in her treatment that she wanted to help other kids battling cancer. Can you even imagine? Here’s this little girl – who lost both of her parents to cancer, was very sick herself – and she wanted to help other kids.

That is how Carly’s Club was born.

Her adoptive parents, Chuck and Carole Ann Collard helped their little girl to fulfill her dream. Carly died in 2002. She never knew the true impact that Carly’s Club would have on the lives of thousands and thousands of children living with cancer. Many others know the impact, though. Chuck and Carole Ann told me in an interview last year that they are blessed to hear success stories from families who’ve been helped because of their little girl,  “There’s no greater joy than attending a graduation party, wedding or significant life event from a Carly’s Club member who is now in remission. We have formed many meaningful and lasting relationships with families faced with a cancer diagnosis. There is no greater gift than the opportunity to give back and make someone else’s life better. Carly’s Club is in place to make the experience more manageable for patients and family members.”


Carly’s legacy lives on in a beautiful way. I know many families, who’ve been helped by this amazing organization. They work hard to make each child feel special. They have fun, do things with other children, and perhaps forget about their disease for a while.

That is amazing, but Carly’s Club, now Courage of Carly Fund –  is much more.

They fund some of the most promising new pediatric cancer research projects at Roswell Park. Big things, like finding more effective treatments and treating harmful effects of chemotherapy.

And that’s still not all they do. They not only help the patient, but they also help siblings, and the entire family deal with a cancer diagnosis.

Carly’s Club was started by a little girl with a big heart. Her parents tell me she would be very proud of what her little club has become.

In her short time on this earth, Carly accomplished more than most do in a lifetime. She cared deeply for others and her spirit and heart live on through Courage of Carly Fund. Through every child, every family member, every doctor, nurse, technician and anyone else who has witnessed her work first hand. And through all of us, in this community, who can be inspired by a little girl we’ve never met.

Today, Carly would have turned 29 years old. As we remember her – please consider making a donation to the organization carrying on her name!

To learn more about Courage of Carly Fund or to make a donation – visit their WEBSITE.


Mary Friona

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Mary Friona

Following my heart with my husband and four daughters. An Emmy Award winning journalist lucky enough to work in television & radio for 20 years - seeing wonderful places, meeting great people and telling their stories.

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    Still heart broken after all these years. Think about you and your parents all the time and wonder what could have been. The legacy you left is amazing and embodies your parents too there to make people happy and lend a helping hand where needed. Miss you Carly Rae.


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