Families Hope Support Continues as Childhood Cancer Awareness Month Comes to a Close

DES MOINES, Iowa -- All this month of September, we have brought you stories of Iowa's young cancer warriors. You can show support for the children and their families throughout the year.

This month we met McKenna Riebkes. She has chronic kidney disease after battling neuroblastoma.

We met Aila Nesbitt, a 4-year-old with high risk b-cell leukemia.

Cooper Wendland will finish treatment for leukemia in November, but he is dealing with chemo brain. Blood Sweat and Beers paid for 40 tutoring sessions for him this year. Cooper said, “Never give up and always look on the bright side of things."

We also met Lucy Almeida, a 2-year-old with leukemia who will take part in the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s Light the Night.

Lochlan Smith is five years out of treatment for hepatoblastoma, which required a liver transplant.

Corbin Pierce hopes to stay in remission after relapsing from leukemia three times. “It`s just kind of tedious,” he said of cancer.

We heard how Larissa Dockum, 13, is collecting cans and bottles for Children's Cancer Connection's courage store. Larissa said, “I was just writing down a list of stuff to help the kids at the hospital, because Lord knows how long the kids have to stay at the hospital.”

Alex Lynch, 17, will host a gift drive for Blank's Child Life Department. He’s working on his Eagle Scout rank. “I think it is a meaningful one. It`s not just a project. It`s personal,” he said.

Another way to help is to donate blood. Blood drives help patients like Moses Avalos. Mom Libby Avalos said, “Moses and kids fighting cancer, specifically blood cancer, they get transfusions. The chemo wipes him out, and he needs that to build him back up.”

We also learned about organizations that help families financially. The Pinky Swear Foundation helped Grace Crowell’s family with non-medical expenses. Mom Jeanet Crowell said, “Just to have somebody acknowledge we get what you`re going through. This isn`t anything anybody signs up for."

We remembered Allie Brooks who was diagnosed with DIPG at the age of four. She died five months later. Her mom Ashley Brooks said, “If our children fight or they lose their battle, if we don’t spread awareness or we don’t do anything, it’s like they didn’t exist. This is my way of keeping her memory alive. Making sure everything she went through, hopefully somebody else doesn’t have to.”

We remembered Drake Guthrie. His family hosts Drake’s Toy Chest Extravaganza every year to collect toys for Blank’s Child Life Department. Mom Jennifer Guthrie said, “For us, holding this toy drive, we can still celebrate him. It still brings everybody together. We can still see we have that support system. It’s unfair what happened, we can’t change it, we can’t bring him back, but we can definitely make sure we try to make a difference in the community.

We remembered Ava Hutchinson, who died of brain cancer at the age of 11 in 2017. Mom Joni said, “She was strength, she was courage, and sass and fun and sparkles.”

And, we remembered Elayna Sandeen. She died last year. Her mom started an Iowa chapter of Unravel Pediatric Cancer.  The organization funds research to find a cure for childhood cancer. Lucy Sandeen said, “She believed in her whole heart it would come in time for her and her friends. That part is really hard because she thought those doctors and scientists who, according to her were working around the clock on a cure for her kind of cancer. She thought that would come in time.”

This month, Camryn Storbeck's family hosted the Princess Camryn's Memorial Golf Outing to benefit Angels for Sam.

Family members of Erin Moomey marked her birthday by spreading sparkle.

And, the Children's Cancer Connection hosted a camp for siblings this summer that's identical to the oncology camp in June.

The following organizations help families financially:

Pinky Swear Foundation

Tori’s Angels

Angels For Sam

Blood, Sweat, and Beers

These organizations fund research for a cure:

Unravel Pediatric Cancer

Leukemia and Lymphoma Society

Children’s Oncology Group

St. Baldrick’s Foundation

These organizations help families during treatment:

Children’s Cancer Connection

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