Over the years I have made numerous friends on Facebook, people that I never would have imagined becoming acquainted with. Of course, some of these relationships are closer than others. One of the more noteworthy connections I have made is with a family in England. It started out by playing online games with a lady named Bev. Before I knew it, I was friends with her six sisters and four brothers. Today I have 20 Facebook friends from across the pond. Not only the brothers and sisters, but also their children, nephews and nieces. I consider it a blessing to have these lovely people in my life. Without them I would have never learned about a very special little boy named Charlie.
Charlie was the son of a close friend of Bev’s sister, Debbie. Charlie’s mum and Debbie were so close that Charlie called her his second mum. He even referred to her young son Jake as his brother. Even though Charlie was 4 1/2 years older than Jake, they were best buddies.
However, things began to change for Charlie. He developed a tumor in his leg. It was found to be cancerous and he had to have his leg amputated just below the knee. The doctors thought this was the end of the cancer, but regrettably it was not. The cancer had spread into Charlie’s bones; he would need treatment to battle the disease.
It was during this treatment that there was another metastasis and the cancer had spread into Charlie’s lungs. A short time later, Charlie could no longer fight the disease and passed away at the age of 9. Jake, who was only 5 at the time, could not understand where his friend had gone. His parents told him that Charlie was now in heaven and was a star shining in the sky. Seven years later, Jake still looks into the evening sky for Charlie.
More children are lost to cancer in the United States than any other disease, in fact more than many other childhood diseases combined. Worldwide, a child is diagnosed with cancer every three minutes. Before they turn 20, about 1 in 300 boys and 1 in 333 girls will have cancer.
Because Charlie’s story had moved me so deeply, I wanted to do something to help fight childhood cancer. I was familiar with the St. Baldrick’s Foundation and decided to get involved with their cause. The idea for St. Baldrick’s began in 1999 when Tim Kenny issued a challenge to colleagues John Bender and Enda McDonnell to shave their heads for donations in order to raise funds for kids with cancer.
In 2004 the St. Baldrick’s Foundation was created to maximize this volunteer-driven effort. The priorities were to spend as little as possible to raise each dollar, and making sure every donation goes to the best research to find cures for kids fighting cancer.
Last year, St. Baldrick’s volunteers raised more than $30 million by shaving heads. That record-setting fundraising effort allowed the foundation to hit a milestone — $100 million in childhood cancer research grants since 2005. Each passing milestone means the lives of children with cancer are being dramatically improved through the support of the St. Baldrick’s Foundation.
Obviously, in order for the momentum of this effort to continue, volunteers are needed. That’s why I have committed to having my head shaved on March 14th in an effort to raise money for the St. Baldrick’s Foundation. Hopefully, I will find enough generous sponsors to help me make a difference.
Young or old, cancer sucks. Whether it’s family or friends, we all have been touched by cancer. My good friend Jamie’s brother John Burhani is battling a rare form of cancer, NK T cell Lymphoma. Because the cost to fight cancer is so very expensive, there is a fundraiser for John on Sunday, Feb. 10th from 2 pm to 5 pm at the UAW 72 Hall on Washington Road.
We all have a Charlie in our life. If you would like to help me fight childhood cancer, I would be honored to have you as a sponsor. For details, I can be reached on Facebook or via my email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This was the “My Turn” column in today’s Kenosha News. Please help fight cancer. Attend the fundraiser for John Burhani on Sunday. Sponsor me by clicking here for the link to my St. Baldrick’s page. Thanks.
Until next time…from the booth.