Monday, March 19 , 2018, 5:03 pm | Fair 63º


Kidz For a Cure Raises Money — and Hope — for Cancer Research

Madison Lewandowski, 9, and Blakely Colvin, 15, inspire others through their fundraiser for pediatric cancer research

The parking lot behind the Cancer Center of Santa Barbara was swamped with children and their families Saturday, and in the midst of the activity, two special girls were working hard to make the Kidz For a Cure event a success.

Madison Lewandowski, 9, and Blakely Colvin, 15, were the driving forces behind Saturday’s second annual toy sale and fundraiser, with all of the proceeds going to pediatric cancer research.

Lewandowski started a jewelry-making business with several friends and decided to use the proceeds for cancer research. They branched out and started selling old toys in yard sale type venues. Madison said that one day, her 5-year-old sister came out of her room with a bag of stuffed animals she didn’t want anymore and said she wanted to donate them.

“My dad and I thought that if I can inspire my sister to do it, then I can inspire other people to,” the fourth-grader said.

Lewandowski knows a few people with cancer and learned about Lance Armstrong’s battle with cancer. She wore a Live Strong bracelet and decided to get involved on her own.

Her dad, Leon, said she’s always coming up with ideas, and said his daughter also helped the victims of Hurricane Katrina by raising money after she saw news coverage of the disaster. “She’s always trying help people out,” he said.

Colvin, a Santa Ynez freshman, said her mission to help out with cancer research was set in motion after she received chemotherapy for two years. Doctors couldn’t tell her whether she had cancer, but she underwent chemotherapy when her white blood cells began attacking her heart and lungs. She has responded well to treatment, and she said the experience has given her a new mission.

“I spent a lot of time around cancer patients, and I just wanted to help them,” she said. “I just like bringing happiness to people who need it.”

At Saturday’s event, Colvin and several friends sold homemade cupcakes at their “Cupcakes for Cancer” booth, with all proceeds going into the research fund as well.

Stephanie Carlyle, development coordinator at the cancer center, was present Saturday and handles most of the center’s events. She said people who missed Saturday’s event but would still like to donate can go to the Kidz For a Cure Web site, she said.

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Children check out toys for sale at the Kids For a Cure event. (Lara Cooper / Noozhawk photo)

“Funds can be earmarked for the Kidz For a Cure event,” she said. Most people aren’t familiar with the cancer center unless they have a friend or family member affected, she said, so events such as this one are crucial to making more people aware of the organization.

“For me, the really cool thing that’s going on here is that these kids are giving back, and they recognize the importance of helping out their classmates,” cancer center CEO Rick Scott said.

The center works in conjunction with Cottage Hospital’s pediatric oncology program to provide research and social services.

Scott said that one of the biggest challenge that occurs when a child is diagnosed with cancer is helping that child maintain a normal life, and that the biggest benefit to having research in town is being able to keep these children in the community.

“By having this kind of research here, the kids are allowed to stay here, sleep in their own beds, and the parents are able to keep their lives somewhat normal,” he said. “If this research center wasn’t here, these kids would have to go down to Los Angeles for treatment.”

Children are able to stay in Santa Barbara and go on to participate in research protocols, where children undergo some of the latest cutting-edge treatments, and then are charted for the rest of their lives to record their progress. Local research protocols will be compared with other groups that are taking place around the country and the world.

“We get kids signed up for the protocols, and we can not only give them access for the latest state-of-the-art treatment, but it also helps us find the answer,” he said. 

Scott said that this research is promising for pediatric oncology. “If you go back and look at childhood leukemia, 30 years ago that would have been a death sentence,” he said. “Now we’re looking at survival rates approaching 70 percent, and it’s because of research.”

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Noozhawk staff writer Lara Cooper can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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