CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) -
A. This is not a typical #MollysKids story.
B. But, we tell the Good, Bad and Always Real…
C. …so here we are.
We want to tell you about Connor Francisco.
His mom recently sent me this picture from 2008, with a then 3-year-old Connor circled. I remember this photo and remember him. He was one of the littlest guys at a CureSearch walk for pediatric cancer in Freedom Park. He was 6-months into remission at the time and went on to fully beat Stage IV Hepatoblastoma.
Last year about this time, June of 2018, Connor killed himself. Suicide. He was three weeks shy of his 13th birthday.
“Why did he do it? I don’t know the exact reasons,” says his mom Diane. “I doubt Connor could have even given you a coherent reason. But many of the issues he was battling traced back to the chemotherapy and the year of hospitalizations he endured as a 2-year-old.”
Ongoing joint pain, intestinal issues, learning disabilities, hearing and speech impairments, socialization issues and later – his mom says – bullying because he was just a bit too different.
“My heart tells me he couldn’t handle it anymore and didn’t believe it would get any better,” Diane says. “My husband and I found him late on a Saturday afternoon when he never came in for our dinner and a movie night. He had hanged himself in the woods on our property.”
Take a minute after reading that last paragraph. It's a tough one.
Since his death, Diane has been thinking about how to organize a fundraiser in Connor’s memory. Choosing one charity to benefit was hard, she said, because over 15 charities helped their family through Connor's life. She ultimately decided to incorporate them all in a day-long festival.
How cool is that? One festival to benefit tons of charities.
It’s set for this Saturday, June 29th... what would be Connor’s 14th birthday.
“People have been asking me ‘Why would you want to do this? It has only been a year!" she says. “But honestly, when WOULD be a good time? I can’t think of one. And really, although this is a memorial to Connor, this isn’t about telling everyone that my son killed himself. It’s about helping others. If hearing Connor’s story will help another family out there, then that’s what matters. That’s the best way I can think to celebrate his day.”
The event will be held at Why Not an American Ark in Monroe from 10a-4p.
Free entry. Free parking. Close to two dozen charities showing up. Lots of activities: Carnival games, pony rides, a fishing competition, food, music, dunk tanks, bake sales, basketball shooting challenge, etc. Everyone is welcome.
Each charity will be asking for donations for their individual activities, but it’s all free for families to attend.
“Connor had a real love for helping everyone,” his mom said. “So many people helped us throughout the years, with everything from housework and pet care to paying for hearing aids and therapies -- now we want to return the favors in his memory.”
**Editor’s note: This is about one of #MollysKids, children WBTV Anchor Molly Grantham follows closely on her Facebook page. It was first published there, which is why it’s written in a personal way. For years Molly has followed hundreds of kids with uphill medical battles. Find this story and updates on all #MollysKids here.