Family Collage

Family Collage
Lots of Love in this Bunch!
*The compositions herein are not to be copied, reproduced, printed, published, posted, displayed, incorporated, stored in or scanned into a retrieval system or database, transmitted, broadcast, bartered or sold, in whole or in part without the prior express written permissions of the sole author Tory Williams. Unauthorized duplication is strictly prohibited and is an infringement of National and International Copyright Laws.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Creating Hope: Patient Advocates Determined to Make a Difference for Stem Cell Research in Alabama!

Supporters from Coast-to-Coast traveling the extra mile to attend this year's Creating Hope Gala. From left: Jayne Woolf of Mary Ann Liebert, Inc. publishers; Birmingham native & American Idol winner, Taylor Hicks; Patient Advocate & CIRM Spokesperson, Katie Sharify; and Peter Wilderotter, CEO & President of the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation. 
On September 18th, the Alabama Institute of Medicine's “Creating Hope” Gala at Birmingham's Workplay venue was indeed a hopeful and inspiring affair. Established in 2013, AIM is the primary resource in our state for funding stem cell research, so regardless cuts with state and federal funding, patients living with disease and/or disability have a reason to hold onto hope that researchers will be able to develop better treatments and possibly cures for these debilitating ailments. The 175-guest fundraiser netted an impressive $20,000, with a gigantic boost from Platinum Sponsor Vivo Biosciences, Inc. 

Before I tell you about the wonderfully entertaining gala, I want to say how moved we all were with our moderator, Peter Wilderotter, who serves as the President/CEO of the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation (CDERF)

Our friend and ally for research cures, Peter Wilderotter

A driving force of the nonprofit organization for nearly 10 years, Peter has been instrumental in the growth of the CDRF, from donors and volunteers to its amazing staff. Peter told me that this year alone, "The CDRF has celebrated groundbreaking research with epidural stimulation; surpassed $17 million in Quality of Life grants; the Reeve Foundation Information Specialists hit 60,000 inquiries; and we announced Team LeGrand, an exciting partnership that will serve as a fundraising arm of our Reeve Foundation." This is incredible and reiterates the concept that an organization's success comes from building a strong team of staff, volunteers, and advocates who share in the mission and goals of the program. 
Now, about AIM's Creating Hope Gala. Guests were greeted during cocktail hour by a warm reception from advocates who traveled across the U.S., including Katie Sharify (5th patient enrolled in Geron's stem cell clinical trials), and Jayne Woolf (Corporate New Development at Mary Ann Liebert, Inc. publishers). 

Guests also recognized a “framed” copy of our newly launched INEVITABLE COLLISION story published by the amazing Mary Ann Liebert, Inc. which was displayed so beautifully near the Ballroom entrance. AIM literature circulated around the Canteen Lounge, as well as information highlighting 100% of INEVITABLE COLLISION proceeds is pledged to fund FDA-compliant stem cell research. Yes, friends. You read this correctly, as my commitment to AIM and this publication is because I am passionate about making a real difference for medical research. It is my goal, along with the entire AIM team, to raise as much money as possible to fund life-saving research. With my sister Tera's recent diagnosis with breast cancer (now, her 3rd battle with this terrible disease), my own diagnosis of Polycystic Kidney Disease, and being a Mom/Step-Mom to seven precious children, I am more passionate than ever to advance regenerative medicine therapy and help fund these cures that can save our lives! 

To read more about my pledge, please click here.  

Enjoyed great conversation with Taylor before his amazing performance! 
In a brief interview with Taylor before he took the stage, he said, "Your story represents 'hope' and explains the sacrifices you and many others have made to accomplish an amazing goal. It's a journey that is truly inspirational!" He continued, "The gala’s ‘Creating Hope’ theme is perfect for this year's main fundraising event for AIM, and we are very lucky to have a program like AIM in our state to fund this important research."  

When I asked Taylor about his position for the growing biotech industry in the deep south, he answered, "It is important to remain competitive in the biotech industry, and to do this, advancement and funding has to be on the forefront of our minds to create a better and healthier society. Overall, I am excited about your [AIM's] funding for all disease and disabilities. It seems that Alabama is making great progress in the research field, and you guys are pivotal to making this happen." 

It was great fun watching guests enjoy the photo opportunity inside the Canteen Lounge where Taylor gave his undivided attention to AIM supporters.

The Gala design was spectacular, thanks to Susan Collum, who draped the ballroom walls in ivory silk and round tables covered in matching ivory linens. And we were thrilled that 200 books made it safely in time the day before our event, so each guest could take home a copy of INEVITABLE COLLISION

Together with cranberry and golden floral centerpieces, all arranged by the amazing Monte at Mountain Brook Florist, it was a spectacular statement of elegance mixed with nature's astonishing beauty. 

At the microphone - Member of AIM Board of Directors, Darlene Brandenburg, Patient Advocate, Established Transverse Myelitis Awareness Day in AL, CEO of Darlene’s Boutique located in Oneonta, AL. Background - AIM Board of Director Jason Cosgrove, Patient Advocate, Senior Geospatial Analyst at Geographic Information Services, Inc. Jason and his wife live in Chelsea, Alabama with their six-year-old twins.
Following an impressive summary of the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation, Peter welcomed everyone and introduced attending AIM Board of Directors, Jason Cosgrove, Darlene Brandenburg, and recognized absent Members Roman Reed and Melissa King. 

I had the opportunity to share with our guests the inspiration behind the establishment of AIM and the publication of INEVITABLE COLLISION, which is a combined journey of how disease has affected my personal family and the efforts behind the entire AIM team to advance regenerative medicine therapies in our state. 
Jayne Woolf, my great friend and partner for cures
Representing our publishing team, Jayne Woolf, who has been an ally and great friend during the entire process (three years) to bring INEVITABLE COLLISION to print, was honored as a distinguished guest and a true partner in this quest for research cures. “I’m impressed with the progress being made in Alabama” Jayne said, who was given a round of applause when she acknowledged not only the many accomplishments of the AIM Team, but also of our home-state's Football Championship team, the Alabama Crimson Tide. 

Presenting the 2014 Creating Hope Award to Peter Wilderotter
Katie Sharify, AIM's 2014 Creating Hope Award Recipient

Through the generous $1 Million donation made by Chris Drummond, AIM awarded three significant grants to UAB researchers for furthering their studies of stem cell research in Alabama.  This young man is a hero to us all, and the AIM Team salutes Chris for his faith in our program and for supporting our vision of advancing stem cell research in Alabama. 
Lastly, our Creating Hope award recipients, Peter Wildrotter, Katie Sharify, and Chris Drummond were honored as AIM Partners for their generous time, effort, and support demonstrated during the establishment and year of operation for our program. Having recently donated $1 Million toward the AIM research grant fund, Chris Drummond said, “I couldn't think of a better way to invest than to contribute to an organization that has the vision for bringing tangible research and stem cell awareness to our state. It's been an honor to work with the AIM team, and I look forward to seeing this incredible organization's future accomplishments!”

In closing of our Gala event, music artist and sensation Taylor Hicks worked his magic with both guitar and harmonica in hand, singing his signature blend of blues and country, with Elton John’s “Levon” and Ray Charles’ “Hallelujah, I Just Love Her So” part of the mix. All in all, the gala was a more than hopeful tribute to the work the Alabama Institute of Medicine (AIM) is doing in the arena of treatment and a cure for disease and disability that touches all of us. 

Thank you for your support and encouragement! I assure you, both keep me and the entire AIM team going day-to-day. :)  Take care and best wishes for a blessed weekend!  Much love ~ Tory

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Sincerest Thanks!

First and foremost, Inevitable Collision would not have been possible without the support of my family, friends, colleagues, and mentors mentioned throughout this story. 
   I want to thank my mother and father who helped bring this book to you by encouraging me to write it. I am grateful to the two of them for their constant and unconditional love for as long as I can remember, and for all that they have taught me about empathy, the art of working around obstacles, and the importance of just getting the job done. I am grateful to them both for being wonderful role models to me, my siblings, and now, to their twelve grandchildren.
   There will always be a special place in my heart for my sister Tera, and my brother Brandon, who are my inspirations, and whose love and support sustained me throughout.   
   As for my husband Ron, I find it difficult to express my appreciation because it is so boundless. He is my most enthusiastic cheerleader; he is my best friend; and he is an amazing husband and father to our seven children. He came into my life through the eye of the storm and calmed it to a beautiful sunset sky. With his gentle nudge and guidance, he taught me to stand up for myself, and to never let anyone take advantage of my humility. Without his love and support, I would be lost.
   And of course, my precious children which includes four biological children and three stepchildren. It’s hard to imagine this book being a reality without them. In fact, it is their bright smiles that put it all into perspective for me: Putting pen to paper to document this story and educate their generation on stem cell research is an important step in the right direction. But it’s still not enough. To save this generation of children, we must build a stronger commitment from each arm of our state and federal government, that will ensure safe and effective therapies reach our young and old without delay. My children remind me daily of all that is yet to be. Beyond this, I thank them for being so loving and patient during the months and years of research, writing and editing, and for being such bundles of joy and laughter throughout the entire process.
   A grateful heart to the best — and most patient — baby-sitter my children could have ever hoped for, McKinley Perry. We are so proud of McKinley and her many accomplishments and wish her all the best in pharmacy school and beyond. 
   I have been blessed to be surrounded by a loving and supportive extended family. A special thank-you to the  Armstrong, Overstreet, and Williams family members who never wavered from their endless love and support before, during, and afterward. 
   From my years at Clarke-Washington EMC and time spent with fellow communication specialists across the state, I want to thank manager Stan Wilson for having faith in me as a writer and for giving me the opportunity to share with our readers the amazing stories of folks living in southwest Alabama. Chellie Phillips, Michael Cornelison, Suzanne Harrell and Junior Carpenter just about had me convinced that I needed to stay at CWEMC forever. 
   And many thanks to Jason Boothe at the Washington County News and Jessica Ross of the Washington County Library who never once told me No if I asked for help with an article deadline, photo courtesy rights, or just to bounce around ideas — these two made the work-week a lot of fun. 
   I also owe a deep thank-you to Sandra Laton for encouraging me to pursue this project in the first place. Dana Massey, Tarah Olewski, and Dawn Hentz who have been incredible friends to me over the years. Their moral support has made all the difference. Mrs. Lou Schell of Chatom, author extraordinaire at the age of eighty-two, who inspired me to see this story through to publication no matter what obstacle may come my way. 
   Writing this book has also been a time of fantastic intellectual growth, fostered by a mix of wonderful learning environments from coast to coast beginning down south at the Shepherd Center, to Orange County, California’s UC-Irvine, all the way up the east coast to the big apple. 
   At Shepherd, the first person that I owe gratitude is Medical Director Dr. Donald Peck Leslie. There were numerous occasions when I felt disheartened and stumped about the direction of my research, but inevitably, a meeting with Dr. Leslie would reinvigorate my enthusiasm and raise my spirits immeasurably. He and his staff made my numerous visits to the Center productive and meaningful experiences for this story. 
   There would be no clinical trial or a potential treatment for spinal cord injury had it not been for the hard work and tenacious spirit of Dr. Hans Keirstead at UC-Irvine. Hans has been a source of inspiration to me and many others through his research career, and mentored thousands across the globe on the power and promise of stem cells. I still remember my first conversation with Hans where he explained his ideology for research. “Tory,” he said, “Always let the science lead.” And this has been his mantra ever since. A special thanks to Hans for reviewing the early drafts of the science chapters and making excellent suggestions that transformed these hard-to-read pages very understandable for the non-PhD’s like me. 
   I want to thank Dr. Paul Knoepfler at UC-Davis and Dr. Edward Wirth and Dr. Jane Lebkowski from Asterias Biotherapeutics, Inc. whose dedication to the research field is incredible. No acknowledgement can truly express how grateful Roman and I are to have gained their friendship and advice over the years.
   Two other researchers who have had an important influence on me are UAB’s Dr. Timothy Wick and Dr. Joanne Murphy-Ullrich. They have both been wonderful collaborators and generous friends to our non-profit program AIM. I have learned a lot about clinical research through my involvement and friendship with them. 
   On the East Coast, I want to thank Brooke Ellison for being a hero to me and millions more. Brooke, a champion advocate for stem cell research, was among the first to offer support of our efforts in the deep south. And many thanks to the brilliant producer Todd Leatherman for sharing his passion for life and bringing awareness to all that our world encompasses. To David McKeon of the New York Stem Cell Foundation, I wish to say thank-you for your generosity during my visit to the NYSCF, and for the kind email sent to Bernie Siegel following our meeting. 
   An endless thanks to Susan Leon, a twenty-five year experienced editor and manuscript evaluator, for believing in me and reaffirming that I had an important story to share with the public. You enabled me to muster enough courage to translate my thoughts and ideas that formed this book, and I will forever be grateful for your hard work, patience, and editorial advice on this project. 
   A big thank-you to Jayne Woolf, Jennifer Quigley, Larry Bernstein, and the entire Mary Ann Liebert Publishing Team. I couldn’t have done this without you. And many thanks to our wonderful PR team, Melanie Scharler and Mara Wedeck, also know as the dynamic duo M&M.  
   To Vivo Biosciences, Inc. for providing the financial sponsorship for this book. Your support made everything possible. I have been touched and honored to work with the VBI team in this partnership for cures.   
   Thanks to AIM’s Board of Directors, Darlene Brandenburg, Jason Cosgrove, and Melissa King who have given a tremendous amount of time and energy to advance stem cell research in Alabama. Your wisdom, leadership, and commitment to AIM inspires us all. 
   And last, but definitely first, I want to thank my mentor and great friend Roman Reed not just because he has given up so much to make medical care and cures a priority in our lives, but because he has seen me through the ups and downs of the entire advocacy and writing process. Tomorrow, on the official book launch day, Roman celebrates his 20th anniversary since being injured in a football game that resulted in paralysis. Roman has shared this amazing journey with me, so it only seems right that I dedicate this book to him. 
   Onwards and Upwards, always.

   God bless!   ~ Tory

Monday, September 8, 2014

Book Launch Week & Prayer Request for Tera: My Sister's Third Battle With Cancer

Well, friends, this isn't the post I had planned for this week's book launch of Inevitable Collision, but after speaking with my sister Tera this afternoon, she and I agree it's the only way to drive our message home to all of you about the importance and power of stem cell research.

With Tera, August 2013

On August 1, when I submitted the final manuscript for Inevitable Collision to Mary Ann Liebert's publishing team, I knew that this story was far from over and there was potential for a sequel to begin as early as 2015.  However, I had no idea how quickly Tera's experience with cancer would change in less than one month since writing The End, where my words "Thank God she's been in remission for over twenty years...." I wrote in confidence and prayed that Tera would never have to battle this terrible disease again.

Sadly, I'm announcing today that we received news last Wednesday that Tera has been diagnosed with a new type of cancer called Invasive Ductal Carcinoma -- the most common type of breast cancer with more than 180,000 new cases in the U.S. each year. Tera my only sister - my hero, is the 41-year-old mother of three handsome and athletic sons, Cameron, Noah and Elliot. She adores her husband David, her family and friends, and our small community nestled in south Alabama more than any other person I know. Tera is a passionate elementary school teacher and works tirelessly to help her second-grade students learn and grow each day.

Although I will never be able to express what an inspiration Tera is to my family and me, I hope that I can express to you all reading today how lucky I am to have a sister who is strong, funny, happy, and who keeps us dancing through life's biggest challenges. In the weeks and months ahead, please keep Tera and our entire family in your thoughts and prayers that her new journey toward cure will be another amazing experience of healing and complete remission. Tera's chances of beating this new cancer are much, much higher than her diagnosis of Rhabdomyosarcoma in 1988, and for those of you who know my sis, you know that Tera is a fighter and will be a very proactive and compliant patient. 

With Inevitable Collision officially launching Wednesday (100% of book proceeds funding FDA-compliant stem cell research) my goals for educating our world on the importance and promise of stem cell research are raised even higher. For Tera and millions of others battling disease and disability, this mission is too important and a MUST!  Your support and prayers are greatly appreciated. 

Much love, Tory! 

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Life-Saving Stem Cells: Southern Baptist Matriarch Shares Her Position on Stem Cell Research

(photo above: Helen with her husband Tony and family pet Bailey)

Last week I received this Facebook message from Helen Grimes who is the epitome of Proverbs 31 devoting time to her family, friends, community and also being a matriarch of my childhood church, Millry Baptist.  As she celebrates her 69th birthday today (HAPPY BIRTHDAY!), Helen inboxed me again this morning on Facebook giving me permission to share the points brought up in our recent conversation to a larger audience -- YOU. :) By the grace of God, she hopes to celebrate many more birthdays and looks forward to helping me share the importance and power of stem cell research... 

August 27th, 10:32pm

Tory can you send me information about different ways stem cells are harvested? I saw a long post from someone I know about not doing the ALS Challenge, because this person said they use aborted fetuses for stem cell research. I know there are ways to get it {research} done besides this. Am I making any sense? Just need something to reply to him. Love you and the work you do.

August 28th, 8:40am
Thank you, Mrs. Helen. The ALS Association has one study using human embryonic stem cells. Click Here These cells are harvested from left over and abandoned embryos at fertility clinics. If there is no issue against a couple trying to create a family using in vitro fertilization (IVF), then there should not be an issue against these cells being used for research. After ten-twelve years of being frozen in fertility clinics, research indicates that these embryos are no longer any good (viable tissue). They can't be donated to another couple because of the significant risk that the embryo is damaged and could cause major health issues to the mother and pregnancy. So unfortunately, over 500,000 of these abandoned embryos are tossed out in the garbage each year from fertility clinics. The great researcher we post a lot about on Facebook, Dr. Hans Keirstead in California, he discovered a way to take these garbaged embryos and use them to discover cures for people living with devastating diseases like ALS, cancer, diabetes, heart disease. Like TJ Atchison, paralyzed at the young age of 21, who was injected with over 2 million human embryonic stem cells to test the safety of these cells. I'm sending you a signed copy of my book, Inevitable Collision, when it comes out September 10th. This, and other important info, is explained in the book. I love you and hope you're doing well. Please let me know if you have any other questions. Also, you can order this awesome book on It's called Sacred Cells: Why Christians Should Support Stem Cell Research written by Ted Peters.

Thank you so much for sending this to me, I pretty much had it right but didn't want some misinformed person putting stuff on here that's simply not true. I will straighten this person and anyone else out. I support stem cell research 100%. I wish I could support your work with lots of money. But I can support it with the right information! I would love to read your book. Love you and I know as a Christian I support your work and so do a lot of other Christians !
Thursday 11:31pm
You're a blessing to all who know you, and I am super lucky to have your support, love, and friendship. Thank you very much for everything. Especially for caring and wanting to know more about this important research.
Friday 8:41am

I can't do a lot but I certainly can pray that the money for research will be made available to you and your team. I sincerely believe it's the road to many cures. Keep your eyes on the road ahead, you will be a part of the cure. Love you so much. I've been reading about stem cell research and I think it is great.
15 hours ago
Helen and I believe it is unconscionable to tell patients and their families to wait unnecessarily when -- if more funding and support were available for stem cell research -- even more cures would be available.  There are many different types of stem cells, including human embryonic stem cells, that show promise for cures. And it is great to learn each day that researchers around the globe are continuing to discover safer ways to use them for better treatments and cures. 

Today, Helen and I ask that you please take time to discover - learn - share, and give due diligence to form your position of this life-saving technology. I assure you, the next time you or a loved one is faced with a health issue, this could very well be your life-saving treatment. 

Much love, Tory!