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Cure4Cam Foundation Awards $20,000 to Nemours Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders
Cameron Evans vowed to make a difference
From left: Cure4Cam board member Laura Rauth, Dr. Andy Kolb, Regina Evans
The Nemours Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders at the Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children was the recent beneficiary of a $20,000 donation from the Cure4Cam Childhood Cancer Foundation. Cure4Cam was started by the family and friends of Cameron Evans of Downingtown, PA, who lost his battle with cancer in 2012 at age 14. The foundation’s two-fold mission is to raise awareness about pediatric cancer, its effects and current treatments, and to raise funds to support the development of new, less toxic therapies for children fighting the disease. Cameron’s mother Regina Evans, said, “We relive his story every day because, although we didn’t choose this cause to fight, we do choose every day to fight for this cause.”
Cameron Evans stood quietly out from the crowd, according to those who knew him best. He was the kid who was always willing to help anyone – family, friends, strangers. It was fitting that yellow was his favorite color, it suited his disposition. Regina Evans thought of Cameron as a ray of sunshine. Polite, confident, modest, an excellent student, a swimmer, and a passionate runner, he was “A motivator when someone needed a push, a cheerleader for those ahead of him as well as those behind him,” she said. Cameron was thin and fit, with wavy light brown hair and sparkly blue eyes. He gave, Regina said, the best hugs. He loved to create, build, tinker, and could answer any computer question. He made his own comic books, designed his own website and spent many hours in the kitchen cooking from scratch. As a teenager, he still loved when Regina read to him, something she would come to cherish, even during his last days.
Before Cameron was diagnosed with cancer, he had what seemed like a cold. He was tired but that wasn’t unexpected for a boy who was running five or six miles a day at cross country practice. In fact, Cameron was still running his best, coming in first or second in every race. He would finish his race, then turn around and cheer everyone else on and even run in with a boy with special needs, who was always the last one to cross the finish line. When Cameron was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia, his initial reaction was to worry about how everyone around him would take the news, including that last place runner.
Physically isolated during treatment, Cameron stayed in touch by email , phone, text, Facebook and Facetime. Once he felt up to it, he started posting his journey on his website, never failing to include something inspiring about this challenges, his “hills”as he called them, using running as a metaphor. Always thinking about running during his experience with cancer, Cameron would “work out” in the hospital, doing laps through the halls and around the nurses’ station when he wasn’t confined to his room. He challenged the therapists to come up with ideas to keep him fit so he’d be ready for the next cross country season. With his PE teacher, he remotely designed a one-mile cross country course for middle school students, an alternative to their required “boring” mile on the track. He wanted everyone to feel what he felt when he ran – the excitement, the freedom and the joy – even when he was unable to take part.
Despite his illness and with the help of tutors and Skype, Cameron completed his requirements for 8th grade and was accepted to the Downingtown STEM academy, a new international baccalaureate high school, which had long been a goal of his. When he needed a bone marrow transplant and was matched with a donor, Cameron encouraged everyone he knew to sign up for the bone marrow registry. His friends and classmates then came up with the idea of selling “Cure4Cam “ bracelets, which touched him, knowing they wanted a tangible way to support him. Cameron spent the last two months of his life on multiple caustic treatment protocols as his family watched cancer take over his body but not his spirit. He passed away May 29, 2012. His funeral was packed and full of yellow.
And so Cameron’s family and friends, their hearts aching, continued Cure4Cam, feeling compelled to help others become cancer free. Regina said, “I had to fight for the second chance he didn’t get and to keep his memory alive.” The Cure4Cam Childhood Cancer Foundation was formed a few months after Cameron’s death.
The Downingtown West High School cross country team was the first organization to support Cure4Cam by making it the beneficiary of its annual Chester County Turkey Trot. Thanksgiving morning 2012 was a perfect day with a sea of runners in yellow T-shirts streaming across the course. The relationship with the Turkey Trot continued, as has an outpouring of support from the team and the entire community. Next came the Muddy Shoes Relay, an idea conceived by a Downingtown High School cross country coach. One of Cameron’s website posts, “What’s on Your Shoe?” mused about how the stuff you step into along the way builds character in life. The three-mile run, designed to be done individually or as a three-person relay, was a great success, attracting families with kids, neighbors, friends and co-workers, everyone from seasoned athletes to people who had never run in their lives. In Cameron’s mind, anyone could do one mile. This year, the Muddy Shoes Relay falls on Cameron’s birthday – April 27 – a bittersweet reminder and a wonderful way to celebrate her son, said Regina, by running through the “mud” and building character.
Other fundraising events have included the “I Swam for Cam” swim relay hosted by the Downingtown West High School swim team and the Upper Main Line YMCA national swim team, which raised more than $2500 for Cure4Cam; and the STEM Academy’s Cam-A-Thon dance marathon in February 2014, raising $8500. In addition, teens in the Downingtown area have made dozens of blankets to donate to kids in the midst of their cancer battles. Cure4Cam emphasizes “kids helping kids” because they have learned through this experience that “kids want to help, they just don’t always know how. We give them an opportunity,” said Regina.
Cure4Cam is eager to fund projects that focus on targeted therapies for childhood cancer, those with the promise of eliminating the cancer but not damaging or destroying other body systems. To date, Cure4Cam has donated $120,000 via Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation’s Charity Partner Program and was matched dollar for dollar. Cure4Cam donated $20,000 to Nemours not only because Cameron was treated at Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children but because of its ongoing work in childhood cancer research.
Andy Kolb, MD, Director, Nemours Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders, in thanking the Evans family and Cure4Cam, said: “Cameron always said that he wanted to make a difference. His life and his battle with leukemia have been a real inspiration to thousands. Cure4Cam is translating that inspiration into support for critically needed research that will help others for many years to come.”