Flag Raised at City Hall for Childhood Cancer Awareness Month

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Saultites watched as Mayor Christian Provenzano, 10-year-old Terrance Boston, a local child currently in remission after battling cancer, and Dominic Campioni, whose daughter Angela passed away from childhood cancer, raised the Northern Ontario Families of Children with Cancer (NOFCC) flag on Monday.

This came before a council meeting whereby September was deemed Childhood Cancer Awareness Month in the Sault.

Families, supporters, and city officials alike came together to honour the children who have been lost and to stand united with the families who are battling this deadly disease.

Dayna Caruso, Executive Director of the NOFCC, an organization based in Sudbury which helps families with children with cancer across northern Ontario with their immediate financial, emotional, and educational needs, opened the ceremony by stating “I am not seeing many local children, and I am not disappointed by that. Most of the time I am standing in front of the families we help. That doesn’t really get us anywhere because they know what I am about to say… So I want to thank you for coming out, because this is what it is all about. You guys don’t know these statistics, and this is how we raise awareness.”

Mayor Provenzano, moved almost to tears, spoke of how childhood cancer has impacted his life and how cruel the disease is, but especially when children are at the receiving end of it.

According to NOFCC, many families in the Algoma district are impacted by childhood cancer. The statistics are harrowing, with 150 cases of childhood cancer per million in Ontario and a striking 175 per million in the northeastern region of the province.

Caruso said there are ways to actively support local initiatives. She encouraged attendees to join a board where they can make a difference, give blood, and do research into what charities you donate to, as not all of them see all proceeds go toward childhood cancer.

She told the audience, “Major cancer organizations claiming to fund research provide anywhere from 3% to 5% of funding to all childhood cancers, the Ministry of Health provides 3% of all their cancer research dollars to pediatric cancer and, as things stand today, the National Cancer Institute provides 4% to research to try to cure all 12 types of childhood cancer, and 200 sub-types. It’s not enough.”

It is especially not enough when you consider the stark reality that families in our region often have to travel to far-away centres for treatment. Not only is this a time-consuming ordeal, but it is also an expensive one. Caruso explained, “The Canadian Cancer Action Network estimates families of children with cancer incur an average expense of $28,000 (for travel, food, accommodation and other expenses) in the first three months following a child’s diagnosis and obviously this situation is much, much more for our northern families who don’t have children’s hospitals here.”

Progress is being made, however. Caruso shared that pressure from NOFCC and other advocacy groups led to approval last week by Health Canada, of CAR T-Cell therapy, an expensive but proven treatment for cancer in children for an eight-year-old Canadian boy named Ryken Covino.

Saultite Ashley Cerra is a proud supporter of the fight against childhood cancer. A friend of Angela Campioni, she told SaultOnline “My family has been affected by cancer before and we are doing a fundraiser this month in honour of the Northern Ontario Families of Children with Cancer.”

The fundraiser she refers to is the Strike Out Childhood Cancer Bowling Tournament, taking place September 18th at North Crest Lanes. Click here for more information, as all proceeds support the NOFCC and lanes and sponsorship are still open.

If you can, take part and donate. Remember, everyday, 250 children die from this disease in the world and more children die from this disease than any other disease combined.

The problem won’t go away without some serious funding and help, as childhood cancer rates have increased 29% in the last twenty years.