Natalie's Everyday Heroes: The Spada family, founders of the Little Warrior Foundation
BROOKFIELD, Wis. (CBS 58) -- Ewing's Sarcoma is a rare type of bone cancer most often impacting kids and young adults.
A Brookfield family found out the grueling treatment hasn't improved in 40 years when their then 9-year-old daughter, Lucy Spada, was diagnosed.
Watching her fight inspired them to start the Little Warrior Foundation almost two years ago. The money they've raised is going towards researching new treatments.
"Dad jokes! My type of humor," Lucy Spada said, laughing in her grandparents' kitchen.
The Spada family is clearly tight-knit, whether it's in the kitchen telling dad jokes, or coming together for something much more serious.
"But they're not good! It's like a 'why did the chicken cross the road,'" Lucy's mom, Maggie, said.
"I think I was nine. Oh my gosh, I look so little. I look like I'm six," Lucy said, looking at a picture of herself from two years ago.
That's when Spada was diagnosed with a rare bone cancer called Ewing's Sarcoma.
"It was horrific, and it was heartbreaking for her, for her siblings, for her dad and I, and for everyone that loves her," Maggie said.
Maggie Spada said the diagnosis came as a total shock after Lucy started limping during a soccer game.
"I mean, you look at pictures of her then and she looks completely healthy," she said.
Doctors, though, found a tumor in Lucy's leg.
"The next day they confirmed that the cancer had spread by the time we found it," Maggie remembered.
Lucy jumped into treatment right away.
"It was tough. I had chemotherapy. chemo, 14 rounds," Lucy, now 11, said.
She also went through surgery and radiation.
"What we witnessed personally, with our daughter, was barbaric. It was atrocious, and prior to cancer, we had no idea what the state of pediatric cancer was," Lucy's dad, Piero Spada, said.
Through it all, there was one thing Lucy's parents couldn't get over.
"We learned that the treatment was over 40 years old, and that no progress had really been made," Maggie said.
So even while Lucy went through treatment, the seed for the Little Warrior Foundation started to grow. The name for the foundation coming from something the family heard time and again.
"People whose children fight cancer, it feels like everyone calls them warriors, you're such a little warrior," Maggie said. "And that name just really stuck, so we ran with it."
The Spadas started the Little Warrior Foundation almost two years ago in April 2020. Piero Spada said they have one goal.
"We're laser focused on finding better treatments that are more precise, more targeted, and less toxic for kids, to make it better for them," he said.
Doing that takes money. Their fundraising efforts include a retail line and a partnership with Colectivo Coffee. Kristin Spada, Lucy's aunt, has a background in retail, and oversees the effort.
"We wanted to create something that all warriors, whether you love them, or are one, could wear every day," she said.
Lucy wanted a simple logo.
"She had asked that we do something that doesn't have cancer written on it. It's written on our website, but we don't want cancer on her body anywhere, not even in silk screen," Kristin said.
"I really love them. I have one at my house," Lucy said, holding up a sweatshirt.
The now 11-year-old also wanted tie-dye sweatshirts, and if you look closely, you can see the little warrior -- a ninja holding a sword.
"I definitely love the ninja, because it's really cool," Lucy said.
Her dad explained another level of meaning in the logo.
"Because last name, Spada, means sword in Italian, so I'm like, if there's any tie-in to a logo where we can have a sword in it, and make it look cool, that would be awesome," he said.
The entire family is pitching in to help the foundation grow.
"We've been really blessed, that like literally at every single turn, when we don't know how to do something, the right person appears," Maggie said. "And strangely, consider it a God-wink or whatever that is, a lot of that was right within our own family."
Lucy is now doing great, and the Little Warrior Foundation has raised more than a million dollars in less than two years, giving out $900-thousand in research grants so far.
"That, to me, feels incredibly rewarding, to be able to say that and do that in the short amount of time that we have," Piero said.
The family's focus is on the fight -- for their little warrior and the next.
"I would give anything for us to never have experienced any of this, but we truly feel called to make it better for other kids," Maggie said. "So, if we can turn something that was so horrific into something good, we want to be that hope for other families."
If you'd like to nominate an Everyday Hero, send Natalie a message at [email protected]