Those of us who are active in trying to raise awareness of the childhood cancer world can name childhood heroes without even thinking about it:
Emma Joy Ford
Ty Louis Campbell
These are top-of-mind for me, not just because they died of their disease, but because of the mark each of them has left on the world in terms of raising awareness about childhood cancer. And there are many more names of child heroes who are still fighting and leaving their mark:
Talia Joy Castellano
And there are so many more. Each of them is a hero. Each of them has an army of people behind them, helping to propel awareness of the nightmare that is childhood cancer.
I’ve learned that childhood heroes are not just those kids who have cancer. It’s also those children who have opened their minds and hearts to the idea of helping other kids who have cancer. Kids who, with their pure and instinctive kindness, understand the importance of giving before receiving.
I learned this as I began doing my first fundraiser at my daughters’ school. It’s a small school with only 89 students ranging from pre-K3 to 5th grade. This week I went into each classroom, armed with my Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation cups, a book about Alex’s desire to raise money for sick kids like her, and the hope that the kids would want to participate in collecting change for childhood cancer. I set the school’s goal at just $500, hoping that I could even come close to that amount.
As I talked to the children in each classroom, I saw their rapt attention, I witnessed their concern about knowing there are sick kids who need help, and I listened to their stories of people they love who have or had cancer.
When I asked the kids whether they would help to raise money by filling their cups with change, I was surprised and incredibly touched by the questions I was asked…
“Can I put in money from my piggy bank?”
“Can I give the money I was saving for a Lego set?”
“Is it okay if I put bills in my cup instead of change?”
“I want to put my tooth-fairy money in my cup. Can I?”
I’m always hearing about the selfishness and misbehavior of today’s children. But that isn’t what I saw as I went into the classrooms at my daughters’ school. I saw pure hearts and giving souls wanting to do their part to help kids like Alex. When I told the kids I hoped to raise $500 across the whole school, several said, “We can do a lot better than that!” And you know what? I think we will.
Just two days after giving out the cups (the fundraiser goes until November 30), I went into the school for another purpose. Kids from every classroom ran up to me and told me how much money was in their cup already. One 5th grader told me she had $30 to give me. Another 5th grader she had almost $100 in change and that her cup wasn’t big enough. The 2nd grade classroom had a large plastic jar that was already half full, and that contained bills as well as change. The same was true in the Kindergarten-Grade 1 classroom. A pre-K student told me he dumped his piggy bank into the cup and filled it all up.
It literally brought me to tears. These kids gave up all the money they had, money they were saving to buy a toy or video game or an American Girl doll and instead gave it to help raise money for medicine to help sick kids.
I started the fundraiser off thinking I’d be lucky to get close to $500 raised.
After seeing the generosity of the children, I know that goal will be exceeded.
And I know that awareness of childhood cancer will grow, not just from cancer patients, but from other children who just want to help them get better.
But the most important lesson I’ve learned from this experience so far?
Never underestimate the power and kindness of children. They have a lot to teach us.