Feb. 7, 2024 | iCare Newsletter
by Bullseye Media

Briar Howell, A True Warrior Princess

It’s been nearly a year since Briar Howell rang the bell at the Hoops Family Children’s Hospital, the tradition symbolizing the end of pediatric cancer treatment. Yet the impact of her journey is continuing with this August’s third annual Briar’s Golf Scramble.

Held at the River Bend Golf Club in Argillite, Kentucky, the first two raised more than $13,000. This year’s goal was $15,000.

That a charitable fundraiser could arise from

what appeared a tragedy illustrates why Briar’s mother, Gina Howell, thinks there is nothing her daughter can’t conquer.

“She’s already been an inspiration to so many,” said Gina of Briar, who just turned seven. “We’ve had many adults contact us who are going through health issues. They have said, ‘If she can get through this, we can too.’”

In July of 2020 Briar complained of a headache and rapid heart rate. After an examination at the St. Mary’s ER in Ironton, Ohio, doctors sent her to Cabell Huntington Hospital.

Four hours after arriving, Dr. Paul Finch, chief of the Pediatric Oncology Department, delivered the bad news: Briar had B-ALL: B-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia.

“It feels like you’ve been hit in the gut and all the breath goes away,” Gina recalled. “Wednesday morning she had the mediport placed so she could begin chemotherapy and that started on Thursday.”

Hospitalized for a week initially, Briar received treatments daily. The frequency reduced to weekly and then monthly, plus daily chemo pills at home.

Briar’s treatment lasted 26 months. When she rang the bell in September of 2022, the family’s tears were ones of joy.

“That was another thing that took my breath away,” Gina said. “Thinking about how brave she was and never complained—it was an amazing moment to

see her be finished.”

The crisis brought Gina, Briar, husband Justin, and son Noah closer together. Their church family in Flatwoods also supported them with prayer and social media updates.

A network of church, family and community support also resulted in the golf tournament, suggested by a family friend, to raise additional funds. Gina said they didn’t need the money, since donations had already covered the family’s medical expenses.

“We should donate it back to the hospital,” the beaming mother replied. “The care Briar received was excellent; it went above and beyond the call of duty.”

The tournament is an all-volunteer project, with Justin directing and planning and others pitching in as needed. A variety of Tri-State Area sponsors donate prizes. The first scramble saw 50 participants, with 100 expected this year.

If Briar should ever need treatment again, her mother finds considerable comfort from the Children’s Hospital being close to their home.

“It meant the world to us,” Gina said of not having to make long drives during Briar’s treatment. “It cut down on costs and meant we didn’t have to worry about going far away and finding a place to stay. It made us feel safer—that if she did have a fever or needed hospitalization she was only 30 minutes away.