Illinois Paramedics, Firefighters Raise Money for Pediatric Cancer Patients
July 31—Firefighters from across the Southland came together on a recent Saturday to do battle and raise money for pediatric cancer research.
Fire Up A Cure, held at Saint Xavier University in Chicago, featured teams of firefighters competing in various events such as tug of war, dodgeball and a relay obstacle course while being cheered on by pediatric cancer patients and their families. In the last six years, the Cure It Foundation, which organized the event, has raised more than $250,000 for pediatric cancer research.
"It's just a great cause and it brings a lot of attention to what these kids go through every day," said Jeff Kane, a firefighter with the Oak Lawn Fire Department. "Hopefully we raise some funds to do some good."
Many of the children at the event were patients of Dr. Jason Canner, a pediatric oncologist at Advocate Children's Hospital in Oak Lawn. Canner also started the Cure It Foundation as a way to raise money for research.
The event typically draws about 1,000 people or more, organizers said. This year, firefighters and paramedics from departments in Chicago, Cicero, Midlothian, Oak Forest, Oak Lawn, Orland Park and Palos Township participated. Each fire department's team also had cancer patients serve as honorary captains.
"You get to see heroes of all shapes and sizes come together," said Kelly Murphy, a spokeswoman for Saint Xavier University.
Though the day is primarily meant to raise funds, Canner said the event also was planned for patients to "have fun and be a kid."
"I think it's awesome," said Jack Higgins, a 6-year-old from the Mount Greenwood neighborhood of Chicago, who has a form of leukemia and served as team captain for Midlothian.
"It's amazing," Higgins' mother, Kelly, said. "It really gets a whole community together... it's really about all the support that the community gives to a really, really great cause."
Kids also were treated to bouncy houses, inflatable slides, games and appearances by various Chicago sports team mascots and members of the Star Wars Midwest Garrison.
The event also let some pediatric cancer patients who are now considered cancer survivors share hope with children currently going through treatment.
Gavin Clarke, 10, returned as honorary captain to cheer on his team made up of firefighters from the Palos Fire Protection District. Halfway through, the Plainfield boy was joking that his voice was going hoarse because of all the cheering he was doing.
"The kid's strong," said Kevyn Holdefer, a Palos firefighter. "He's got a lot of heart... how someone so much smaller in size has a bigger heart; but heart is not measured by body size."
Clarke hasn't had to have treatment for leukemia in three years. In between cheering on his team, Clarke took time to encourage others he talked to, including his fellow team captain, and shared his own story with people he met.
Clarke said he tells fellow cancer patients to "never give up. Never."
More information on the Cure It Foundation is at www.cureitfoundation.org.
The Daily Southtown, Tinley Park, Ill.