Both women have young sons who have battled childhood cancer, and both want to support others who are experiencing a similar struggle.
A day after his fourth birthday, Russell’s son Brooks was diagnosed with a brain tumor in May 2012. Montalbano’s son Mitchell received a Leukemia diagnosis in August 2014 – also at the age of four.
In April, the two moms who attend GodWhy church in Hendersonville learned that another child who attends their church was diagnosed with a brain tumor.
“When we learned that there were three of us going to the same church, we started really looking at the numbers here in Sumner County,” said Montalbano, who found more than 20 families whose children either have or have had some form of pediatric cancer living in the area.
“We thought we need to get this out and let people know that it’s not as rare as people think that it is.”
Montalbano and Russell, joined by Bonnie Mason whose daughter was diagnosed in April, have been selling gold bows and t-shirts with other families touched by cancer during the month of September – Pediatric Cancer Awareness Month.
On Tuesday, Sept. 12 Hendersonville Mayor Jamie Clary proclaimed September “Sumner County Goes Gold Month.” The city of Goodlettsville made a similar proclamation Sept. 14 and Gallatin did the same Tuesday night.
Those wanting to buy a gold bow are out of luck, however.
“We received a far better response than we thought we would and we’ve sold out of the 355 bows we had,” said Montalbano. “It just exploded. There’s been a tremendous outpouring of support from the community.”
Montalbano said the group is using the money to purchase items for the oncology clinic at Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital where the majority of the children in the area seek treatment.
“Whether they need more video games or play-dough or snacks – anything they need to make the kids more comfortable – we want to supply that,” she said.
While the chance to purchase bows this year has passed, the public can help the cause by attending a fundraiser Sunday from 12:30 to 2 p.m. at GodWhy Church in Hendersonville. O’Charley’s restaurant is providing lunch and there will be several inflatables for children as well as a princess and a hero to pose with for photos.
There will also be a medal ceremony for the children battling cancer as well as their siblings.
“We want [the siblings] to feel special too because they are heroes too,” Montalbano added.
Russell says she wants to raise awareness in the community that there are families with children struggling here in Sumner County.
“We’re hoping to shed some light on just how many families there are going through this,” she said.
She also wants those families to know that there are others like them.
“We want them to know that they’re not alone – that there are others here who know what you’re going through and know exactly how you feel,” she said.