UA community comes together in the fight against childhood cancer.
BY CALLIA PETERSON, ’22 AND ELLIE CRESPO, ’22. GRAPHICS BY DAPHNE BONILLA, ’22. PHOTOS BY BELLA VANMETER, ’22 AND CALLIA PETERSON, ’22.
Beginning in September, which is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, the UA community has come together to support fundraisers that benefit local cancer patients and their families.
Two local projects created by students, the non-profit organization Bearing Hope and a children’s book titled “The Worry-Free Bear,” were founded to raise awareness about childhood cancer and to raise money for children and families fighting the disease.
At 13-years-old, senior Alea Ramsey was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, a form of cancer that attacks the bones.
After going into remission in March of 2019, Ramsey faced two relapses, first in March of 2020 and then in June of 2019. She has spent her high school years in and out of the hospital, and her journey inspired her to create Bearing Hope, a non-profit that brings hope to kids who are fighting cancer in Ohio.
Since its establishment in September of 2020, Bearing Hope has grown exponentially, allowing Ramsey to help more children going through cancer treatment than ever before.
“Bearing Hope has become everything I dreamed it could be and more,” Ramsey said.
Ramsey has sent around 20 individually themed bags to inpatient children during Valentine’s day, the 4th of July and Halloween, and Ramsey’s neighbor provides homemade quilts for her to donate to Nationwide Children’s Hospital. She also organized a car parade for the first patient Bearing Hope served.
In recent months, Ramsey has traveled to Washington, D.C., for a childhood cancer awareness event and has had several successful fundraisers, including the Oct. 8 football game at UAHS.
At the game, the fighters, survivors and angels were projected onto the big screen after the first quarter. Additionally, the football players and cheerleaders wore gold ribbons, and the student section wore gold t-shirts and held gold balloons.
“I saw kids [at the game] who had to fight so hard for a chance to be a kid, dancing and cheering on the team. Every time I met a [new] warrior, I gave them the same type of sticker the football players were wearing and told them, ‘Every single football player is wearing this ribbon for you,’” Ramsey said. “[Their] faces lit up every time I said that, and it made them cheer even harder and have even more fun.”
In the days leading up to the game, Ramsey fundraised by selling t-shirts.
“All of the shirts were sold out. Many people from the community donated to be sponsors so buying shirts was an option,” Ramsey said.
The football game both raised awareness for pediatric cancer and allowed Ramsey and the community to give back to children with cancer.
Ramsey said the event formed a connection between those children and the community.
“I was proud of my family for helping me organize and arrange everything. I was proud of the UAHS staff members for being so amazing and trusting to help my vision become a reality. I was proud of the football team, marching band, tech team, Bear Den and cheerleaders for being flexible, respectful and for doing their part to make that night even more special for the kids. I was proud of the cancer warriors who came to the game and those who couldn’t make it. I was proud of myself for pulling people together for a cause I care so much about,” she said.
Ramsey views the football game as a success for her non-profit organization.
“Bearing Hope has gained so much support through the football game and fundraiser. The whole UA community has shown so much love and support for the cause,” she said.
Ramsey said she hopes Bearing Hope will continue to grow even further.
“Honestly, if Bearing Hope can continue to bring hope and joy to kids, I will be happy,” she said. “The whole experience of starting and maintaining a non-profit has been such an eye-opening experience that [continues] to change my life everyday, and that’s all I ever hoped for when I started it.”
This experience has reaffirmed Ramsey’s future aspirations.
“I already knew I wanted to do something in the pediatric cancer world; I think starting Bearing Hope just helped confirm what I want my future career to be,” she said.
THE WORRY-FREE BEAR
After watching her older brother fight cancer, Tess Short, a fifth grader at Greensview Elementary School, wrote and published a book titled “The Worry-Free Bear” about a young girl diagnosed with cancer whose story parallels Tess Short’s own experience.
Tess’s brother, sophomore Sam Short, was diagnosed with a cancerous tumor called spinal ependymoma at 12-years-old.
“When I got diagnosed, it was really hard because I couldn’t do anything for a year, and I didn’t feel comfortable with myself anymore,” he said.
Doctors removed the tumor, but after eleven months of clear scans, the tumor returned, this time on both sides of his spinal cord.
“We thought everything was fine, and then [it] came back twice as worse,” Sam Short said.
The doctors could not remove all of the reoccurred tumor, so Sam Short went through multiple rounds of chemotherapy and radiation. Today, his tumor is Grade III and aggressive, but he is stable.
“We’re just chasing it now,” his mom, Tori Short, said.
Throughout her brother’s cancer journey, Tess Short watched Sam Short relearn to walk, wear a neck brace and undergo radiation and chemotherapy. In a writers’ workshop during third grade, Tess Short decided to write a story inspired by what she was seeing and feeling. She wrote about a girl with cancer named Caroline who used a stuffed bear to keep her worries at bay.
“I worried about Sam a lot, just if he would be OK or if my parents could pay the hospital bills to keep him in there,” she said. “I [had] my own bear that I would hug, and it helped me throughout the process.”
Tess Short compiled her ideas onto a Keynote and showed her third grade teacher, Jana Holland, who illustrated the book and helped Tess Short get it published.
“I showed it to Mrs. Holland, and she was in love with it,” Tess Short said.
Holland and a team of teachers at Greensview, including Mark Walter, Tess’s second grade teacher, and Jaimie Trainer, another third grade teacher, edited Tess Short’s story and connected her with a publisher.
“The teachers really took it and ran with it,” Tori Short said.
Through a Kickstarter campaign, the Short family and the Greensview teachers raised $20,000. Part of the money paid for 500 books and 525 stuffed bears, and the rest was donated to charities supporting children with cancer, including Ramsey’s care packages. The books will be self-distributed to the Short family’s network of friends and families impacted by childhood cancer.
“The book is a culmination of Tess observing what Sam went through, and the books that she read along the way,” Tori Short said. “We are grateful to have had all the support.”