What is Team Nathaniel?

Team Nathaniel is a nonprofit created in honor of nine-year-old cancer patient, Nathaniel Contreras, who did not survive his battle with Osteosarcoma.

We honor Nathaniel’s legacy by supporting other families and children affected by childhood cancer. We know that they are faced with very few available treatment options, so we assist them by getting them into a trial and simultaneously raising awareness for pediatric cancer.

Team Nathaniel focuses on one family at a time, and funds their child’s trial or medication.

We will build one hero at a time. 

Who is Nathaniel?

Nathaniel Contreras was born a happy healthy baby in March, 2006. He was a very expressive baby who grew to be a curious toddler, social preschooler and imaginative kindergartner–well known throughout the school as the boy who filled the hallways with Transformer battle noises–usually when he was supposed to walk quietly down those halls.

He liked all the typical things boys like – Thomas the Tank Engine (learning every name of every engine that existed in the stories), cars, especially Lightning McQueen, Transformers and Super Mario Bros. But more than anything, he loved Legos.

No one knew that the first five years of his life would be the only span of time that would be considered a “normal” childhood. At the age of five,  just three weeks shy of his sixth birthday, Nathaniel was diagnosed with Osteosarcoma.

He’d been complaining of leg pain and what we discovered was a tumor above his left femur. The diagnosis turned our world upside down. We had no idea in 2012 just how treacherous of a journey we had ahead of us.

Within months of his diagnosis, Nathaniel underwent a major surgery called Rotationplasty, essentially amputating his left leg, resulting in the use of a prosthetic leg, or as he and his friends called it, a “robot leg”. Over the course of three and a half years, Nathaniel was in and out of chemotherapy. In 2012, he spent a year in chemo treatments, and was only able to get through six months of clean scans before the cancer spread to his lungs. After another major surgery to remove the nodules from his lungs, he again went through chemo for nine months, and had nine months of clean scans.

While the family reveled in this wonderful milestone right before Thanksgiving 2014, the celebration was short
lived. During Christmas break that year, Nathaniel began to experience headaches and major nausea. In January, 2015, it was discovered that a tumor had been growing in Nathaniel’s brain, a very rare occurrence for his type of cancer. In fact, there was nothing in the medical books that could be offered to the family other than experimental treatment. Unfortunately, the treatments were not successful.

In three and a half years, Nathaniel endured nine surgeries, 22 days of radiation, and 20 months of chemo, yet Nathaniel’s outlook on life and his desire to live was so inspiring. He never stopped smiling and was often told how infectious his smile was to others. He did everything in his power to enjoy just being a kid. He became a bit of a legend at Children’s Hospital, because no matter how serious the surgery, he bounced back quickly and with a smile.

In his nine and a half years, Nathaniel left quite a legacy. Despite the bad hand he’d been dealt, he lived every day to the fullest. He made us realize that a change must be made for children with cancer everywhere.

During his final days, when Nathaniel no longer had use of his hands, he still tried to put his Legos together with one hand, eventually teaching his mom how to be his other hand so they could build together.

Nathaniel taught us that no matter what challenges in life come your way, there is always a reason to smile, there is always a reason to fight for your life, and there is always an opportunity to see the best in the worst of situations.
Through his experience, he taught his classmates and friends compassion, he taught his family to never take time
together for granted, to stop and play games together, worry about the housework later, and realize that it is a blessing that you and your children are in the same house together at the same time. And most of all, he taught us that we must do something to help the many children facing cancer.

Nathaniel was a hero, but he is not alone. Many children fight cancer on a daily basis. It is estimated that approximately 300,000 children under the age of 19 years are diagnosed with cancer each year, and approximately 80,000 will die from their illness. In the United States alone, cancer kills more children under the age of 14 than any other disease.

With those statistics, and no increase in successful survival rates with current trials and testing, we need to do more. That’s why we founded Team Nathaniel–to honor Nathaniel by building childhood cancer heroes.

We want to help other children and families who are in a similar situation as we were. We know that they are faced with very few available treatment options, so we assist them by getting them into a trial to test a new drug that hasn’t been previously tested on children. This is how we plan to take steps toward finding a cure.

Team Nathaniel focuses on one family at a time, and funds their child’s trial or medication. We will build one hero at a time. 

Nathaniel fought hard to survive, but the hard truth that we discovered through his journey is that the lack of awareness about treatments and funding for childhood cancer research trials means that some children do lost their battle with cancer.

Team Nathaniel raises awareness about childhood cancer and helps pave the way for pediatric cancer patients to explore new treatments. We hope to support other families so that they may enjoy watching their child
grow into a healthy adult–without being hindered by cancer. The road to a cure must become a common road we travel, not a miracle or rarity. Help us by giving to this worthy cause.

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