SPARKS — Northern Nevada Children’s Cancer Foundation volunteers arrived early Friday to start calling the local community for donations to help children who are in the fight of their lives. With each dollar received, the black numbers on the whiteboard began to grow larger in numbers. And the amount grew larger quickly.
Claudia Sanchez, 15, arrived shortly after 9 a.m. with her mother by her side. Her smile warmed the room and she was ready to be put to work. Everyone around her welcomed her with open arms. But she wasn’t just another worker, ready to pick up the phone and start asking for donations.
Sanchez was facing a battle of her own.
First diagnosed in 2010 with a rare ovarian cancer called Sertoli-Leydig Cell Tumor of the ovary, Sanchez underwent her first chemotherapy fight and thought she had overcome her disease. After the seven-month ordeal, she recently, on her father’s birthday, was told the cancer had returned.
Sanchez is now facing another round of chemotherapy.
Yet she and her mother attended Friday’s telephone drive in hopes of raising money to help other children and families deal with the same tragedies she has had to overcome.
“When they told me, I thought I was going to die,” Sanchez said, “it was hard. I didn’t know what to expect. I know now how everything works. But it is hard because I wouldn’t want it to come back again.”
Although Sanchez is scared, sad and disappointed, she wants other children and teens to be brave.
“Be strong,” she said. “The war is just started. You shouldn’t give up. There’s more ahead for them. They shouldn’t be scared. Having cancer is not something they should be scared of. That’s not something that should stop their dreams.”
She’s also learned a lot about herself.
“I’m strong. I’m unique. I’m not like the rest of the people,” she said.
“Their journey should never be lonely,” said Leslie Katich, who works in program services for the foundation. “They have the support of the community behind them.”
The foundation held a phone campaign to raise funds for its Elevating Life campaign at Sheels All Sports in Sparks Friday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
As of 2:30, the campaign had raised $43,000.
The foundation’s mission is to reach out to local families fighting childhood cancer by gathering financial support from schools, businesses and churches. Friday’s campaign drive was the finale of the Elevative Life campaign.
Proceeds raised will provide families who have children diagnosed with cancer receive lifesaving treatment and vital emotional support. Last year, 38 families receive cancer diagnosis in northern Nevada, according to the foundation.
The funds are critical to the success of providing aid to children and families affected by pediatric cancer, the top disease-related killer of children. More than 40,000 children and teens are treated for various types of cancer and some 50 children in northern Nevada are diagnosed each year. The average age of diagnosis among children is 6 years, according to the foundation.