Students in Madame Sheriff’s Grade 4 French Immersion class know you’re never too young to start giving back. The John Mahood Public School students donated $250 to the Pediatric Oncology Group of Ontario on Wednesday, in honour of first grade student Sara Jean.
The tiny blue-eyed, blonde girl has twice been diagnosed with rhabdomyosarcoma, a rare form of cancer, and has bounced back both times.
Her mom, Amy Forwell, said when Sara was sick they had to take time off work and POGO helped to cover some of the costs.
“It’s so important that they can raise money to help families that are in our situation so that we can still help look after our other kids,” said Forwell.
She told the class that POGO has been around for more than 20 years and grows every year, raising more than $750,000 at their annual gala on April 12.
“I want to thank everybody for all of your hard work and all the money that you’ve donated. The money that you raised helps with many, many, many things when kids are sick with cancer,” said Forwell. “To help find the best doctors in the world to get treatment when Sara was sick and other kids and to get research to find cures for cancer and medicines that help kids get better without getting so sick is what all this money goes to.”
Forwell said she’s been overwhelmed by support from the community and the school, including donations raised at the school celebration known as Mahoodfest. Sara and her brother, Zach, held a lemonade stand for POGO a few weekends ago and raised $100.
“[POGO] just touches so many people’s lives and even the smallest amount helps,” said Forwell. “It’s great when people want to give a big lump sum but $100 here, $100 there, it all is so helpful to so many people that are in our shoes unfortunately.”
She said it was especially hard on their family because the first time Sara was diagnosed, her brother Zach was only a year old. The second time she was pregnant with their younger sister. She said she doesn’t know how they would have managed without their family.
“We’ve always said we’ve been very lucky to have family and friends close by that have been so helpful,” said Forwell. “It’s something that you never expect and you just do what you have to do to get through it each day and take one day at a time and here we are.”
Sara was featured in a video at the gala, which is also on their website now. It was shot at Grand River Hospital, where she receives treatment every Friday. The director met with her three times prior to filming so she’d be comfortable around him.
“The day of taping was about an eight hour day of taping and she loved every second of it,” said Forwell. “We were watching the clock and she was like ‘I’m having a blast.’”
She is organizing a run in Kitchener this August to raise funds specifically for pediatrics. She hopes to make it an annual event.
“Families can show up and show support,” said Forwell. “We’re really encouraging runners or walkers of all ages to participate because it is for pediatrics.”
For more information visit www.kitchenerkidswithcancerrun.com.