ST. CLAIRSVILLE -Belmont County commissioners Wednesday recognized September as National Childhood Cancer Awareness Month as a time to note the courageous children struggling with cancer, as well as the loving families who band together in support during this most vulnerable time. Recognition was also extended to the health care providers who administer care and provide treatments during the search for cures to pediatric cancer.
They also honored the memory of young lives taken too soon.
Present at the meeting was Amy St. John of Bellaire. She and Rick St. John are the parents of Cody St. John, a Bellaire Middle School student battling cancer. Last year, his school district had a fund drive, with all money raised donated toward the programs and services of the American Childhood Cancer Organization, which has been providing comprehensive books to children of all ages fighting cancer. The program has been in operation since 1970 and books are given free to all requesting them from across the country.
Since he was 5-years-old, Cody has fought Neuroblastoma, the most common extracranial solid cancer in childhood an the most common cancer in infancy. It is a neuroendocrine tumor arising from any neural crest element of the sympathetic nervous system, or SNS.
He has received treatment in hospitals from Boston to New York. School officials have noted that Cody has been an inspiration through his courage and attitude.
Among other events, Commissioner Charles R. Probst, Jr., who also coaches volleyball at Martins Ferry, said the team would play using gold apparel to raise awareness. He hopes other OVAC coaches do the same. He added that awareness and fundraising efforts would be welcome during the season's sporting events.
A gold ribbon is the symbol of the fight against childhood cancer. Commissioner Ginny Favede passed out numerous ribbons during the meeting and will continue spreading awareness. She noted the importance of raising childhood cancer awareness, which would likely lead to added funding.
"Anything I can do to make the public aware, the communities and the county, of what these kids do go through," said St. John. "Seven days a week, 365 days out of the year, we lose seven kids to childhood cancer."
She added that often children must undergo the same treatment as adults due to the lack of research funds into child treatment. She noted that her son's out-of-state treatments have made his improvement possible although he continues to fight the side effects.
Childhood Cancer Awareness Month will be commemorated yearly and the public will be reminded that the battle against cancer is also waged by the most vulnerable.
"I can guarantee you that this will be an annual thing from now on," Probst said to St. John.
"I can't imagine what you've been going through, you and your family," he said. "The life changes you all have to make and what the children go through."
Commissioner Matt Coffland added that as the uncle of a child who has battled leukemia, the reality of childhood cancer is familiar to him.
"A lot of things people don't understand is how much community steps up," he said, noting the importance of community support in making any fundraising drive or cancer awareness event a success.
For more information, visit the American Childhood Cancer Organization at www.acco.org. Cody St. John's Facebook page is called Raise the Gold.
DeFrank can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org