By the smile on both girls’ faces, it was hard to tell that Haylee was diagnosed with an Atypical Teratoid/Rhabdoid Tumor (AT/RT), a rare brain tumor most commonly found in children younger than 2, in March of 2013. Although Haylee’s younger sisters had far more hair than Haylee, she was not letting her diagnosis get in the way of a family outing Friday at Scheels.
Madie’s $5 bill was a donation to the Northern Nevada Children’s Cancer Foundation (NNCCF) during Friday’s Know the Gold Campaign radio-a-thon, a 13-hour donation spree broadcast across four Cumulus Broadcasting stations. The Know the Gold Campaign has been in progress since September 2013 and Friday’s radio-a-thon was the finale of a push for $100,000 to help children in northern Nevada battling cancer.
Debbie Strickland, executive director of NNCCF, said the non-profit came into the finale about halfway to its goal, and more than $18,000 had been raised before noon. Strickland said the campaign changed its name from Elevating Life, in hopes of spreading the message of the gold ribbon, signifying children’s cancer.
“What we realized through this campaign was that it was not only a fundraiser, it is one of the largest vehicles for educating in our community,” Strickland said. “We want people to become familiar with (the gold ribbon) and that it is a problem in our community. We want to make them aware of what our community is fighting in terms of childhood cancer.”
Strickland said four new cases of childhood cancer have been diagnosed in the state since the start of the new year. The NNCCF currently has 111 families who are within the first through third years of battling cancer, making them eligible for assistance. Strickland said 356 families have benefited from the NNCCF’s funds and support since its inception.
“I think, in particular, it was a rude awakening to learn we have so many cases in Nevada,” she said. “As much as children’s cancer sounds like a rarity, it’s not.”
Strickland said some details are lost in exactly how the NNCCF helps families “fight their battles” with the foundation’s support. Rather than suggesting or helping pay for treatment, the NNCCF handles things on the home front, easing some tension placed on the whole family.
“What that looks like, in particular in the first month, we don’t want that parent to have to struggle with 'do I keep a roof over the other children's heads or stay by my child's bedside fighting the disease,’” she said, adding that paying for home bills and new tires for a car to travel to treatment were examples of how NNCCF helps. “We meet with the family, figure out what their needs are going to be and what the prognosis is so we can figure out how to pool all the resources possible in our community and our community partners to make this the best type of journey for them.”
Country music was echoing through the ground floor of Scheels as the NNCCF staff members and volunteers greeted hundreds of callers offering donations. Strickland said the generosity of the NNCCF’s partners and donors help keep the non-profit organization fueling the “fight” in northern Nevada.
“I think so many people want to help in a different way,” Strickland said. “People are not able to help financially all the time. They are just not in a position to do that, but if we form different opportunities, we will make something work for them so they get to experience the feeling inside that giving back has attached to it. We have all kinds of components and our volunteer base is so cool and they keep coming back all the time because they believe in what we do. We do a call out and they always step up.”