Pictured, above: Maya Thompson with her 2-year-old daughter, 12-year-old twin boys, husband, and Taylor Swift backstage at the singer's 1989 tour stop in Phoenix.
Even the world’s most hard-lined skeptic would have a tough time finding fault with Taylor Swift’s latest charitable act. On a stop in Phoenix for her 1989 tour, Swift broke out a song she’d only sung once before, at a 2012 Stand Up to Cancer event:
Called “Ronan,” the song is about Maya Thompson’s son Ronan (pictured, below), who, just days before his fourth birthday in 2011, succumbed to his battle with stage 4 neuroblastoma. Swift, a fan of Thompson’s blog, Rockstar Ronan, wrote the song using words straight from Thompson’s posts, naming her co-writer of the song as a result. “It just really struck a cord with her,” Thompson tells InStyle. “She was very taken aback and disgusted about the statistics within the childhood cancer world. She had no idea that these kids get no attention.”
Since Ronan’s diagnosis, Thompson made it her mission to raise awareness about childhood cancer, a cause she says “nobody talks about.” What she didn’t know then was that one person would speak up, and that person would be Taylor Swift.
We caught up with Thompson to talk about Childhood Cancer Month this September, her nonprofit The Ronan Thompson Foundation, and Swift's involvement with the cause (including how she helped name Thompson's daughter!).
What do you and your foundation hope to accomplish this month with the spotlight on being childhood cancer?
Our goals are to just raise the bar of awareness. One of my main missions in life is to make the gold ribbon as recognizable as the pink ribbon. Because you see that pink ribbon, and everybody knows it stands for breast cancer, which is a valid and important issue. I just feel like kids deserve to be recognized for cancer as well. That awareness equals funding. Funding equals research. The research equals cures for these kids.
What events do you have planned to help raise that awareness?
We have fundraisers coming up. I'm getting ready to do one in New York with Bloomingdale's on September 26th. We do a fashion show, and all of our little models are kids that are currently going through treatment for cancer. It's a great event, and the kids have the best day ever. We're trying to turn all of social media gold (this month). The hashtag that we've come up with is #BeBoldGoGold, and we’re really trying to blast that all over social media as much as possible.
How did Taylor first get involved?
Somebody from her team reached out when she was coming to Phoenix for her Speak Now tour and said Taylor wanted to meet me. I had no idea that she knew who Ronan was. I went to Taylor's concert, was waiting in the back room, and I had this whole letter written out to her, with pictures of Ronan in it, because I wanted to share his story with her. Then it turns out she already knew all about him. She came into the room, and—just, tears pouring down her cheeks—and said that she had been following our blog for so long and was so heartbroken over Ronan. Her exact words were that she "had never seen a love story as beautiful as the one between a son and a mother." Everything just came from there.
What has your relationship been like since?
It's been very organic, which I love, because it's just like the stars aligned. Nothing's been forced by me or by anybody. It's just Taylor taking the lead, because it means something to her. That's one of my favorite parts about this whole thing. It's just how natural it's all been.
She’s even helped you name your daughter.
Yes. I just found out I was having a girl, and I was in New York and I ended up seeing Taylor in New York at Katie Couric's show, because we were both on for similar reasons. I'd been, in my blog, referring to my belly as "Poppy" because when I found out at five weeks that I was pregnant, the baby was the size of a poppy seed at that time. When I was talking to Taylor, I was like, "What am I going to name her?" and she was like, "What do you mean? You've been calling her 'Poppy' this whole time. You have to name her 'Poppy!'" That sealed the deal.
How awesome that your daughter will get to grow up knowing Taylor Swift named her.
She's a little Swiftie, for sure.
What’s one misconception you’d like to clear up about childhood cancer?
Oh my gosh, there's so many. I just think if the world were aware of how horrible the world of childhood cancer really was—I mean, people would be in an uproar. … The fact that the government allocated less than four percent of all federal cancer funding to childhood cancer. I don't understand why we aren't fighting our hardest for these kids. They're our future.
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