It’s been almost exactly a year since a little girl named Jada Love Tracey died from a tumor that had woven its way through her brain stem.
We first heard about Jada in late 2010, when she was just 8 years old and a man named Tony Hyler, a bagel salesman from Chicago, decided to throw a kids’ party of all parties for Jada.
Hyler had met Jada while he was being treated for cancer at a center in Bloomington, undergoing proton therapy.
Though the two had virtually nothing in common, other than they both had cancer, Hyler was touched by Jada. Most of the patients at the center were middle-aged, but the presence of a child engaged in the same battle made them realize how lucky they were to have lived full and successful lives.
Jada eventually went home with an optimistic prognosis, but within months her cancer had returned, and doctors gave her little time to live. She hung on far longer than anyone expected, living until May 7, 2011.
Now Jada’s mother, Sara Tracey, is arranging what she calls a walk against childhood cancer to take place from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday at the smaller pavilion at Foster Park.
The event isn’t necessarily to celebrate the memory of Jada but to bring a little additional attention to the issue of childhood cancers.
There are plenty of walks and fundraisers that take place in Fort Wayne, Tracey said, but as far as she knows, there are none that focus on childhood cancer.
Tracey has teamed up with a couple of local volunteers as well as a woman whose daughter died of the same cancer three years ago. That woman founded an organization called Aimee’s Army (aimeesarmy.com), which raises money for research into childhood cancer and provides assistance to families with children who have cancer.
There will be a walk around Foster Park starting at noon, but you don’t need to have a pile of pledges to walk. Instead, people will be welcome to join in and make a donation if they want.
Tracey has even arranged for a band, a dance troupe, a clown, a bounce house and raffles to raise money.
She isn’t just looking for cash donations, though.
In the last months of her life, Jada spent a lot of time at the Pediatric Hematology Oncology Clinic at Lutheran Hospital. There you will find toddlers, youngsters and teens with cancer. Whenever Jada underwent an MRI or other treatment, the tradition was to give her a little gift, just something to look forward to for a little girl being treated for cancer.
So Tracey is also asking for donations of coloring books, crayons, art supplies, craft items that can be donated to the center for the young people undergoing treatment there.