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Putting a face on the fight against cancer

March 5, 2012

Inspired by leukemia patient Ryker Carr and his family, Bishop Unified School District employees (l-r) Vicka Stout, Kristin Carr, Kathleen Stout and Heather Carr are launching a campaign this month to raise funds for and awareness of leukemia and other cancers. File photo

Teachers, students and administrators throughout the Bishop Unified School District are launching a campaign this month to raise funds for and awareness of leukemia and other cancers.
At the heart of the campaign is a little boy whose battle with leukemia has provided the inspiration for two major fundraising events.
Pennies for Patients kicks off this coming Wednesday, March 7, with a blood drive and bone marrow registration from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. in Bishop Union High School girls’ gym. According to organizers, the bone marrow registration simply involves a quick mouth swab. Contact Kathleen Stout at (760) 872-4275 ext. 243 to make an appointment.
Shine on Sierra, the culminating luminary walk event, takes place Friday, March 23. Registration begins at 6 p.m. at the high school football field at the corner of Pine and Home streets. For a $5 donation, participants will receive a lit candle to illuminate their paths as they circle the football field from 7-8 p.m.
Wind a concern? Not to fear; organizers will provide a protective paper bag weighed with a bit of sand. A compilation of inspirational music will keep the mood meaningful but upbeat. The 8-8:30 p.m. closing ceremony will announce contest winners and reveal the tallies of blood donated, bone marrow registrants and funds raised.
Organizers plan to invite the Home Street Middle School drill and Bishop Union High School dance teams to provide rousing entertainment, if their schedules permit.
Kristin Carr, Home Street School secretary and a key organizer for these events, said she urges residents to “come together as a community of giving and caring people to make this a successful” campaign.
According to Carr, proceeds from both Pennies for Patients and Shine on Sierra will benefit the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and the Eastern Sierra Breast Cancer Alliance, which provides medical and living expenses as well as moral support for local cancer patients and survivors.
“This community is over the top at supporting any cause,” said Carr, admitting that she has been brought to tears by the generosity shown in previous fundraisers.
The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society has authorized Ryker Carr, Kristin’s great-nephew, to be the Pennies for Patients campaign’s school hero. Ryker puts a face to the campaign “so that local children can visually connect to a real person,” Carr explained.
She said she hopes that awareness of this illness will “teach compassion” to children and “rally the community for a good cause.”
As part of Pennies for Patients, students of all ages will collect donations in handy little cartons adorned with the catch phrases “Hey, make change!” and “Let’s beat cancer.” One hundred percent of the Pennies for Patients proceeds go to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. Shine on Sierra proceeds will be shared equally by Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and ESBCA.
There are additional opportunities to contribute to this varied fundraiser. Citizens may buy a paper penny window placard at the Home Street Middle School main office for a $1 contribution. Be sure to designate one of the school’s 17 homerooms because the fundraising contest is on.
Every Friday is lap day at Home Street and on March 16, students can earn fundraising dollars while staying fit by getting sponsorship pledges – by the lap or by the lot. First-place prize homeroom winners will enjoy a pizza party. The second place prize is an ice cream party and third-place winners will receive a prize of their teacher’s choosing.
All of these events have been organized by a team that includes not only Home Street’s Carr and BUHS’ Stout, but also Vicka Stout of Home Street Middle School, and Heather Carr and Jean Sprague of Elm Street and Pine Street Elementary School.
The campaign’s school hero, Ryker Nicholas Carr was born on July 5, 2010 to high school sweethearts Matt and Kambria Carr, both born and raised in Bishop. Sister Madalyn and brother Zachary greeted Ryker with loving anticipation. According to the website LovingRyker.org, the family soon nicknamed their little brother “Roo after the Winnie-the-Poo character as he embodied the same adventuring, inquisitive spirit.”
At his first-year checkup, Ryker’s pediatrician noticed that the boy’s lips weren’t the pink color they should be. An exhaustive set of diagnostic tests revealed that Ryker has acute lymphoblastic leukemia, or ALL.
Without early detection, cancer remains the second most common fatal illness in America. Carr can attest to this fact. “Nine family members have passed due to cancer.”
Organizing these fundraisers has heightened the awareness of the devastatingly pervasive impact cancer has had locally. “Six (Home Street School) staff members have lost multiple members to cancer,” Carr said.
However, Ryker, other patients and their families don’t have to face cancer alone. In addition to support from organizations like the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and ESBCA, “our family has been incredibly touched by (Bishop) community support,” said Micky Carr, Ryker’s paternal grandmother, whom the toddler calls Mimi.
She said she wants people to know that while the family’s ongoing efforts to promote and support fundraisers certainly help her little Roo, they are “also a way for us to pay back all that the community has done for our family.”
The importance of money to fund the battle against cancers cannot be understated but love is crucial, too. Ryker saw his Mimi as recently as this February when she spent 10 days with the family in Overland Park, Kan. Both paternal (Micky and Frank Carr) and maternal (Ken and Pam Abbott) grandparents routinely make the trip to keep strong the circle of loving support that surround Kambria and Matt and their three children.

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