Most parents have no idea how they would deal with the devastating news that their child has cancer. Unfortunately, there are many parents who have to deal with that reality every day.
A couple of local organizations teamed up last Saturday to give those families a break away from having to deal with regular doctor and hospital visits, giving the parents and the kids a little bit of normal for a little while.
The Halos and Tiaras Foundation and the Cancer Resource Center of the Desert put on a dinner and entertainment for families affected by childhood cancer at the Fairfield Inn in El Centro. Johnny’s Burritos catered the food and the entertainment was provided by pirates known as The Royal French Privateers of Clan Darksail and Mermaid Callie.
“We started this last year in September because September is “Go Gold” for childhood cancer,” explained Marcy Bingham, one of the cofounders of Halos and Tiaras. “It’s meant to give parents and kids an enjoyable experience away from the hospital.”
The Cancer Resource Center’s Mercedes Watson-Garcia said that the support from the community for the organizations has been outstanding and has really helped the children and their families. She said that not only did Johnny’s Burritos provide food for the evening but the owners of the restaurant recently opened on a Sunday just to raise money for the cause.
The pirates were an interesting addition to the event, and the costumed characters definitely caught the children’s attention. But they were amazed when Callie, in her elaborate mermaid costume, was carried in. As expected, the boys gravitated towards the pirates and the girls to the mermaid.
There were about three dozen children and parents in attendance Saturday. The evening was capped off with raffles for some great prizes donated by local businesses and individuals, and every family won something.
Halos and Tiaras was started about three years ago after three year-old Caelynn Iten was diagnosed with cancer. Funding for children with the disease amounts to only about four percent of the total spent here in the U.S. and it was obvious to the founders that more needed to be done for them.
Robin Iten is Caelynn’s grandmother and it was her idea to start the foundation. The community rallied around the family to provide help for the many unexpected expenses they faced, and Iten realized that there were others who were in the same situation.
The name for the foundation comes from two children. The tiaras part came out of the Fight Like A Princess campaign put together for Caelynn, and the halos part is in honor of Milania Trevino. Milania was diagnosed with cancer about two years ago and succumbed to the disease shortly afterwards. She is now seen as an angel looking after others from heaven.
The group stages a number of big and small fundraisers
throughout the year, and the money goes right back out to the families who need it. The funds provide for things like gas and travel expenses, since most of the treatment the children need can only be had in San Diego or Los Angeles. Money is also available to help with medical expenses, since whatever insurance the families have is never enough.
Watson-Garcia said at the beginning of the event that more than two dozen children in the Imperial Valley are right now receiving treatment for cancer or are in remission. She also brought up the bad news that there were three kids who died from the disease over the last year.
The CRCD is the contact point for anyone dealing with the disease. The staff will make referrals to the Halos and Tiaras board as cases come up and families need extra help, as almost all do. Both organizations have Facebook pages and welcome donations at any time.