In honor of Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, HGTV‘s Erin Napier posted a heartwrenching social media message about a dear childhood friend who died when they were kids. However, the heartfelt words and image that the “Home Town” host shared on Instagram were deleted within hours.
Here’s what we know about the situation…
Napier Pays Tribute to Childhood Friend
On the morning of September 7, 2022, Napier posted two Instagram Stories in remembrance a childhood friend who died of leukemia. She said she was thinking about him because her daughter Helen, who’s 4, is the same age they were when they met at school and because September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month.
The first post featured Napier’s words typed in white on a golden background, the color that symbolizes childhood cancer awareness efforts. She wrote that when she was Helen’s age, “my best friend was a boy named Allen. I thought he looked Elliott from ET, who is Helen’s biggest crush going on 2 years.”
“He was everyone’s friend, even to shy kids like me,” Napier continued. “September is childhood cancer awareness month, and I remember him, even though leukemia took his life when we were little children. Thinking of my friend today.”
Napier ended the message with a red heart emoji. In the next Instagram Story, Napier posted an image of a young boy, presumably her friend Allen. The brown-haired boy in the photo did resemble Henry Thomas, the child actor who played Elliot in the 1982 film E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial.
Instagram Stories only remain visible for 24 hours, but Napier deleted her posts about her childhood friend less than three hours after sharing them.
The photo of Napier’s young friend had a black digital frame around it, a golden ribbon representing childhood cancer, and the logo for Whipping Childhood Cancer, a nonprofit dedicated to raising money for families in Florida who are caring for a child diagnosed with cancer.
Co-founder Jenny Mena Silviano told Heavy she didn’t recognize the child in the photo, but that the organization created the virtual photo frame several years ago in honor of Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. She said, “Happy it’s being used!”
Congress Officially Declared September Childhood Cancer Awareness Month in 2019
Though childhood cancer is considered rare, the National Cancer Institute says it’s the leading cause of disease-related death past infancy, in children and adolescents. Former President George H.W. Bush made a presidential proclamation in 1990 to introduce the idea of setting aside the month of September to raise awareness. Former President Barack Obama issued a similar proclamation in 2012.
In 2019, Congress officially declared September to be National Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, requesting that Federal, State, and local governments as well as nonprofits “observe the month with appropriate programs and activities, with the goal of increasing public knowledge of the risks of cancer” and to “make the prevention and cure of cancer a public health priority.”
But advocates say not enough is being done to fight pediatric cancers. For instance, the Children’s Cancer Research Fund says 1 in 5 children in the U.S. who are diagnosed with cancer will not survive, and that there are only 6 drugs made specifically for childhood cancer.
Former HGTV power couple Chip and Joanna Gaines commemorated the first day of Childhood Cancer Awareness Month by announcing they’ve signed on to be official ambassadors for St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital. Their duties include promoting its #30DaysForJude fundraising campaign throughout the month of September to help “treat and defeat” childhood cancers.