Landon Vargas was born on November 26, 2006. He was the oldest son of Beth and Ariel Vargas, and the playful older brother of three siblings. In 2009, on Landon’s fourth birthday, he was diagnosed with alveolar rhabdomyosarcoma cancer. The lives of the Vargas family were forever changed on this day, and things would never be the same again.
Upon his diagnosis, a five year and nine day long battle began, not only for Landon, but for all those who loved him. What began as what we thought was a normal earache led us to an ultra sound at CHOP, and then for a biopsy where we were told ,”your child has cancer, and it is a very rare form.” From there we had many meetings with doctors to explore our different treatment plan options. During those five years, Landon endured numerous chemotherapy treatments, surgeries, two rounds of proton radiation, and several clinical trials. He received opinions and treatments throughout the United States from Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, to The University of Pennsylvania, to Nemours Alfred/Dupont Hospital for Children, to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, to Boston Children’s Hospital, to Sloane Kettering Hospital in New York, to St. Jude’s Hospital for Children in Tennesse, and to The National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland.
One of Landon’s most incredible and memorable experiences occurred when he was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to receive a personal blessing from Pope Francis. The Pope visited the city of Philadelphia on September 26th , 2015. Pope Francis held Landon in his arms, rubbed his head, kissed him several times and gave him a Papal Blessing. We are forever grateful for this special memory for Landon.
Landon loved to play sports and he always competed with determination, enthusiasm, and a smile on his face. Whether winning or losing, Landon’s contagious laughter and positive attitude never wavered. In life, Landon competed on a much higher level. He battled his disease with a light heart, courage well beyond his years, and always with an endless smile! Landon was so brave in every circumstance. Sadly, after a five year battle, Landon passed away nine days after his ninth birthday in 2015.
We were extremely fortunate and tremendously thankful for the overwhelming support of family, friends, and the community. His hallmark was his “Miles of Smiles!” There was never a moment, even as his time was growing short, that Landon wasn’t smiling, making people laugh, and thinking of others. Landon’s ability to adapt and thrive in each situation continues to amaze us. He never slowed down and continued to do all things he loved. He would go to chemotherapy and then compete in soccer, baseball, wrestling, and basketball games. Landon was, and continues to be, an inspiration to us all!
The Landon Vargas Foundation is a non-profit organization that was created in an effort to honor our precious Landon. This foundation strives to carry out Landon’s legacy by focusing on two aspects that were at his core. First, his love of family. There was never a moment when Landon wasn’t planning a family picnic or kickball game in our backyard. He always found a reason to invite his family and friends over for a party, often unbeknownst to his parents. Second, was his ability to flash that radiant, contagious smile in the midst of everything he was facing. Landon’s witty humor was best exemplified after twenty hours of intense surgery in Seattle. Landon was lying in bed with a room full of talkative family members. He pops his head up and says to everyone, “can’t you guys see that I am trying to sleep here,” and then lays back down and chuckles hysterically.
Our goal with the Landon Vargas Foundation is to find ways to keep Landon’s legacy alive by helping other families create lasting memories of their own. We shared numerous and unique memorable experiences with Landon. As a result, we look forward most enthusiastically to sharing our resources with other families and providing them with opportunities to create lasting memories that they can cherish forever. Our foundation works with numerous hospitals to support their child life teams, fund an annual Landon Vargas Memorial Scholarship, and fund research toward the fight against cancer.