Our little girl, Bonnie Kathleen Vonder Haar, was born on September 8, 2001. It was 3 days before 9/11. A joyful yet scary time. America was on “high alert”. Yet, we were overjoyed at the birth of this beautiful little girl, our second after our other yet beautiful daughter Hannah. We had Ben after Bonnie. Two very lucky people with 3 healthy children!
Bonnie was pure sunshine. As an infant Bonnie walked at an early age, talked at an early age. She loved life and lived it to its fullest. Bonnie was always very active and loved to jump on the trampoline. She also had so much fun swimming in our pool and would spend a lot of time “swimming like a dolphin”. She would stand on her Daddy’s back for fun. Bonnie was never bored. She could be found doing any number of things such as doing crafts, she loved a good book and nature. We used to go camping and Bonnie just loved it. She loved to catch Butterflies and Frogs. Bonnie loved her family.
Very often, you could catch Bonnie picking Cherry tomatoes right off the vine and eating them! Pizza was Bonnie’s favorite food but with black olives!
As many of Bonnie’s supporters knew, her favorite color was Teal. We made bracelets in Teal to wear in support of Bonnie’s battle. Unfortunately, Bonnie did not survive, but her spirit did.
In mid January 2014, our daughter Bonnie said she was not feeling well. We took her to the doctor and she was diagnosed and treated for a respiratory infection. Bonnie got better and returned to her beloved school where she earned straight A’s. She was in the sixth grade. A few days later Bonnie became sick again. While playing her favorite sport Hockey, January 25th, Bonnie left the ice during a game in the 3rd period. This was so unlike her. Bonnie would miss school once in a while, but never miss a shift in a Hockey game! She did not return to the ice. She was suffering from Abdominal Pain. Much later we would discover that she was suffering from an enlarged liver.
Sometimes Bonnie would love to wear medical braces and ham it up for an injury. This time was so different as she missed more school and really was sick and resting.
We were very concerned when on Super Bowl Sunday, one of the Vonder Haars huge family events, I noticed bruises on Bonnie’s leg. This was when we were really worried and brought her to Lutheran General Hospital the very next morning. Many tests were performed. Our family had our own version of 9/11. We were put once again on high alert but with our own child.
Then came the awful day on February 4th, 2014. The Oncologist sat us down to tell us that our baby girl had Leukemia. The doctor explained AML and many things to us such as there is a low survival rate ant there is a short circuit between chromosomes 3 & 16. Also her blood was making too many white cells and they were useless and poisoning Bonnie’s organs. All of this sounded like muffled mish mosh of information and the time I (her dad) was then assigned the task of telling Bonnie of her diagnosis. I was sure I explained it as the doctor did to us. Bonnie asked me, “Daddy can I die from this?” I told her “not in this room, not you, NO!”
For 167 days Bonnie showed the world what it meant to be strong. Bonnie was only able to return to her home a couple of times. She could only have a handful of visitors. The risk of Bonnie being exposed to virus or bacteria was too great.
During Bonnie’s hospitalization, she received some really great visitors. Her favorites were the therapy dogs. Bonnie loved dogs and especially missed her dog Sammie and was overjoyed when we got to make a wish. Bonnie wished for another dog. She actually was promised a puppy and she chose one and named her Rosie after a friend that survived AML.
Bonnie’s strength and resilience were amongst many of her attributes. She was brave, respectful, outgoing, generous, and compassionate to others. For example, it was recommended to us that Bonnie have an ovary removed so that when our daughter grew up she would be able to have children if we preserved her ovary. When she had the surgery Bonnie suggested that maybe her ovary could help other kids with the same illness. Before Bonnie lost her hair she had two braids cut off. Her hair was a beautiful and very long and a pretty red. When she lost her hair she knew that is was part of getting better and that it would grow back. Bonnie was still beautiful with her big blue eyes.
During treatment Bonnie received hundreds of fluids intravenously. Busulfain (Chemo), saline solution, antibiotics, platelets, blood and so much more.
Our whole family was tested for a bone marrow match. We received the great news that her brother Ben was a perfect match! Ben was the Hero! On June 6th, the transplant was performed. It worked and we were expecting to leave for home with our daughter soon.
Sadly this was not to be. On July 12th Bonnie pointed out some pain. In a few days she ended up in ICU. Her poor little body that fought so hard for so long was shutting down. Her cancerous blood did not heal. On July 19th 9:38a.m. Bonnie left us in the physical sense.
We want everyone to know that Bonnie loved life and she was good at it. Bonnie at her young age of 12 already was an inspiration to many. She was a compassionate beautiful little girl and loved by everyone. Bonnie’s passing has left the saddest and deepest void in the Vonder Haar family that will never be filled buy may be covered by the most precious most beautiful memories of her.
We have been told by many people that Bonnie has taught them so much. Bonnie has taught me (her dad) a lot also. Bonnie will always be missed, never forgotten for she is in many hearts.
In the loving memory of Bonnie, a wonderful team of generous friends have volunteered their time and have assembled to form a foundation in her name: GIVE BONNIE STRONG 77 is the name of this foundation. We will help to fund RESEARCH to find a CURE for Pediatric Cancer. We believe in this cause and will do this in Bonnie’s name. Number 77 is the Jersey number she wore in hockey games and will wear forever in her resting place.
Please join us and our foundation! Volunteer, donate… Most importantly, spread the word! Help us create awareness, talk about it.
It was amazing how the outpouring of support from the Hockey club, GTAAA, Friends, Family and strangers. People I never knew came to support my family. Meals, help with laundry, helping to bring our other two children, Hannah and Ben, to their activities and school. Cleaning our home for Bonnie’s arrival. We were astounded by all this support! Our lives were turned upside down and all these people helped us through and still do.
This is how our family would like to keep our Bonnie’s memory alive. She would be happy with this.
Through tragedy I found there is such goodness in people.
From the Father of Bonnie Vonder Haar