Touchdown for Taylor: Five Years Later

By Laura Edwards

Five years ago tonight, a small but determined group of women known as “Taylor’s Tale” threw a huge party in honor of my little sister and kids everywhere fighting Batten disease. We called it “Touchdown for Taylor.”

Touchdown for Taylor house

When guests arrived, Sir Purr, the Carolina Panthers mascot, greeted them on the steps of the beautiful home of our gracious hosts.

Sir Purr

Inside, they mingled with former Batten Disease Support & Research Association director Lance Johnston and researcher Sandy Hofmann, MD, PhD, who had just gotten a $50,000 grant from Taylor’s Tale – the birth of a project of paramount importance in the fight against infantile Batten disease.

Lance and Sandy

They heard a special message from NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and watched a slideshow of my then 9-year-old sister’s life that still chokes me up.¬†They heard from my mom. They heard from me.

Sharon and Laura

They heard a great band, enjoyed each other’s company and ate incredible food.

guests

They gave my family, just a little more than a year removed from Taylor’s diagnosis, a fire for the fight that burns to this day. And at the end of the night, they gave Taylor’s Tale $40,000 for that fight, matching our first-ever event, “Chapter One,” nine months earlier. Just as importantly, though, they energized us. They energized me. They helped me believe in my own words when I told people we’d find a way to beat Batten disease.

speech

Taylor is not the long golden-haired, sighted, chattering, singing fourth-grader my parents left at home with a babysitter on the night of Touchdown for Taylor. But she still has every ounce of courage she had back then.

And we’re still fighting.

Watch the Video Message from NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell

View More Photos from Touchdown for Taylor

Read My 2007 Blog Post about Touchdown for Taylor


Chapter ?

By Laura Edwards

Chapter OneFive years ago tonight, 160 people gathered at a private home in Charlotte. All 160 knew my family in some way and that Taylor had recently been diagnosed with something called Batten disease.

Near the end of the evening, my mom, dad, brother, husband and I stood together in front of all of those people. My mom thanked everyone for coming and appealed to their hearts. Lance Johnston, executive director of the Batten Disease Support & Research Association, stepped in, educated the crowd on the disease and appealed to their minds. Finally, with my brother at my side, I made at once the easiest and most difficult speech of my life. I cannot remember the words I spoke – I rarely prepare remarks in advance and did not do so that night – but I remember how they felt. After I closed, my dad, who until that moment had remained silent in the background, stepped forward and read a Father’s Day card from Taylor.

Moments later, that roomful of people donated $40,000 – capping the first of many successful evenings for Taylor’s Tale.

We called it Chapter One.

I’m battle-weary. And I know we’re on borrowed time. But I still believe. And if you are one of the 160 people who shared Chapter One with us – and you’re reading these words now, five years later – that means a part of you still believes, too. My family’s fight has gotten much tougher since that night, but on the other hand, wonderful, amazing things have happened in research, shining a bright light into the dark world of Batten disease. Much of the progress that has been made specifically in the area of infantile Batten disease – the form that affects Taylor – may never have happened if not for the generosity you showed on the night of Chapter One.

We stopped counting chapters after that first night. We don’t know how many chapters we’ll need. But we’re focused on writing the happy ending to this tale, once and for all. And we’ll do whatever it takes to get there.

View Photos from Chapter One