By Brooke Moody–
The dripping of an IV, concrete walls of a hospital and never feeling well enough to go out and play permeate a childhood ridden with cancer.
Thinking back on their childhood, most people imagine sunny days, soccer fields and elementary classes filled with friends. But for one in every 285 students, the memory is much different.
According to a report from the National Cancer Institute, around 13,500 children will be diagnosed with cancer this year. Twenty-five percent will die from the disease. The childhood that should have been will be replaced by months of intensive treatment and health complications for years to follow. This will set them back in school, sports and just simply being a kid.
For this reason, many student organizations choose to support childhood cancer awareness and research through their philanthropy. RaiseRED and Honors Student Council are just two of the many at U of L whose fundraising supports children with cancer and research into treatments and cures.
RaiseRED focuses year-round on raising funds for the medical research of pediatric cancer and for the children and families affected by it. All of their efforts cumulate in an 18-hour dance marathon. Last year, 750 students participated in the marathon and over $226,000 was raised.
“Childhood cancer and blood disorders shouldn’t be in our vocabulary. RaiseRED works to fund research projects so they eventually won’t be,” says Taylor Wilson, who has volunteered with RaiseRED for the past 3 years and is now going into her senior year as the alumni and faculty relations coordinator. “RaiseRED is a celebration of life. Children shouldn’t have to face these battles, but RaiseRED makes sure they don’t have to alone. ”
Honors Student Council also focuses their fundraising on childhood cancer. HSC holds events throughout the year to support Camp Quality Kentuckiana. Camp Quality is a summer camping experience for children with cancer. Their mission is to help children facing the challenges of cancer simply feel “free to be kids again.”
The partnership with Camp Quality began after one with Kosair Children’s Hospital fell through. Emily Benken, the current HSC president, says that the mission of Camp Quality is what makes the organization rewarding to support.
“It’s a motivating goal to work toward when you get caught up in the stress of planning events, yet knowing that your work is going toward influencing positive change.”
Troy Sterling, a member of HSC, volunteered as a companion at the camp this past summer. Companions are volunteers who become a camper’s “best friend for the week.” Many of the campers need around the clock medical support as well as emotional support, but most importantly they need someone to help them be a kid again.
“It was awesome seeing the children get so excited and playful and carefree. If you didn’t know they had cancer, it would have seemed like just a group of normal kids,” said Sterling. “These kids have had to mature much quicker than healthier children their age. That’s why I think it is important that camps like this exist.”
Sterling left camp this year with a new outlook on life and plans to work with Camp Quality again next summer.
HSC fundraisers that support Camp Quality include Yule Ball, a Harry Potter themed dance, and BAMS, a bi-yearly book and media sale.
Children with cancer are just that—children—but the realities of sickness and death are very real to them. Often they miss out on the wonders of childhood. Organizations like Camp Quality and those supported by RaiseRED offer children with cancer the chance not only at a better childhood, but a better life.
Students can play a part in improving these children’s lives by participating in events held by RaiseRED, HSC and the other campus organizations that support childhood cancer awareness.