Childhood Cancer Awareness in Bolton

By Becky Herberger | Published September 26, 2014 | The Bolton Independent

As part of a growing movement across the country, Bolton parent Janet O’Shea wants to raise awareness for childhood cancer and get her town more involved.  September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month and some organizations in Bolton plan to support the effort this weekend.
O’Shea has been involved in awareness and fundraising efforts since her daughter, Charlotte, was diagnosed with a brain tumor in 2006.  O’Shea said, “We just want childhood cancer to get the attention it deserves. People don’t really have any idea how common it is, and how many kids actually are treated for cancer and die of cancer each year in the country and worldwide.” Charlotte O’Shea died of cancer in 2010.
Going Gold for Childhood Cancer is a nationwide grassroots movement from parents of kids who have had cancer, or have died of cancer, that spreads awareness of the disease by displaying as much gold as possible during the month of September.  As part of this movement, New Hampshire resident Tony Stoddard lit the Prudential Building, the Zakim Bridge and the TD Garden gold in Boston.
Florence Sawyer School will get on board by “going gold” on Friday, September 26, encouraging kids to wear gold or yellow to school.  Nashoba Youth Football and Cheer participated in this awareness effort last fall, and will again wear yellow or gold socks this weekend.  O’Shea hopes that next September more local organizations, like high school teams or other sports teams, will participate.
The Pan-Massachusetts Challenge Kids Ride at FSS takes place on Sunday, September 28, and money raised will go to the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute for research and treatment via the Jimmy Fund.  Students can register online at www.kids.pmc.org/bolton.aspx or onsite beginning at 11:00 AM.  The event is for cyclists of all ages and there will be food, music and entertainment.
Also at the PMC Kids Ride, kids can get their photographs taken at the bridge in front of FSS — the bridge will be decorated gold, representing a “Bridge to a Cure.” Nashoba Regional High School photography students the photos.  People will also have an opportunity to place ribbons on the bridge for those battling cancer and in memory of those they have lost to the disease.
Childhood cancer is the leading cause of death by disease in children under the age of 15. One in 330 kids will be diagnosed with cancer by the time they reach age 20, which is up by 29 percent over the last 20 years.  Four percent of the Federal Government’s total funding for cancer research is dedicated to kids and, int he past 20 years, there has been just two pediatric cancer drugs approved by the Food and Drug Administration.
Bolton parent Marianne Savage commented on the lack of funding for the disease, “Kids only get four percent of the National Cancer Institute’s research investment and that’s just not acceptable.  We believe in supporting childhood cancer research through charities like Dana Farber’s Jimmy Fund, as they are working to ensure that kids get more effective treatments.” Savage’s son, Brendan Duhaime, died of cancer in 2011.
O’Shea explained that childhood cancer researchers rely on the fundraising efforts of parents and PMC teams, as well as grants.  O’Shea’s PMC team, Team Lick Cancer, designates a large portion of their fundraising each year to childhood cancer research at Dana-Farber.  Last year the amount was approximately $360,000, and this year it will be about the same.  “That’s like the biggest chunk of money that they get every year and it’s from  parents — it’s not from the government, it’s not from the American Cancer Society or anything like that,” said O’Shea.  Team Lick Cancer consists of 89 local riders including Bolton residents O’Shea, her son James, Jill Cote, Andrew Keane, Gina Kovach, Deirdre Sanderson and Jessica Weadock. To make a donation to Team Lick Cancer go to www2.pmc.org/profile/pfp.asp?profileid=TL0054 before October 1.
In other childhood cancer fundraising efforts, some Bolton residents walked last Sunday in the Boston Marathon’s Jimmy Fund Walk.  Will O’Shea is a team captain of Cancer’s a Loser and he walked in memory of his sister, Charlotte. Sarah Duhaime is team captain of Brendan’s and Michelle’s Dreamland and she walked in memory of her brother, Brendan, and in support of a friend, a fellow NRHS student, who is currently in treatment.  Many Bolton residents, including Kristin and Will Gaynor; Janet, Jim and Katherine O’Shea; James Borsari, Malone Duhaime and Marianne Savage, joined them last Sunday.  Donations can be made to Cancer’s a Loser at www. jimmyfundwalk.org/2014/cancersaloser and to Brendan’s and Michelle’s Dreamland at www.jimmyfundwalk.org/2014/sdhaime6 until October 31.
Jenny Jacobsen’s son, Henry, also from Bolton, was diagnosed with cancer in 2013 and is now in remission.  “Encouraging people to be aware is not the same thing as telling them to live in fear, but childhood cancer exists and from my observations it seems the number of children affected is on the rise.  Great leaps have been made, but still the treatments for cancer are poisonous to children; many may potentially cause other cancers.  Nothing is worse than touching your child with plastic gloves because his very sweat is a toxin to you.  What a gift it would be to future generations if our efforts could find a better way to cure them.  We owe it to them,” Jacobsen said.
“Kid’s cancer is a big thing,” said Janet O’Shea, “We’ve had a lot of kids in town that have suffered from it and died from it.  Let’s try to promote that — raise some awareness.