Tallahassee nine-year-old raises more than $2,000 in honor of her brother and pediatric cancer

Published: Sep. 24, 2019 at 10:13 PM EDT
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By: Sophia Hernandez | WCTV Eyewitness News

September 24, 2019

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) – Six years ago, a Tallahassee family received heartbreaking news that their 11-month-old son, Grayson, was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia and given a 10% chance of survival.

But on Tuesday afternoon, Grayson is seen as the healthy first grader, who has been cancer-free for four years. His nine-year-old sister, Katelyn, has made it her mission to find a cure to pediatric cancer, and help others in the process.

The fourth grader hosted her first fundraising event on Tuesday morning, saying it was one of the best days ever. She had attendees "Go Gold," sporting their 'gold' clothing, in awareness for pediatric cancer.

When asked why she does it, Katelyn says, "I wanted to raise money because I want kids with childhood cancer to feel supported. They are not the only ones going through this journey."

The 9-year-old has made it her mission to help others when just six years ago, her world was changed forever.

Her mother, Janelle, says the cancer journey is not just difficult for the person going through treatment, but for the family as well, "We went through two really long years of cancer treatment and traveling to Gainesville and Katelyn was between the ages of three and five."

But Katelyn took the difficult time, watching her brother fight leukemia, to fuel a new passion, "I wanted a little sister but I got a little brother instead and I wanted him to stay with me instead of passing away so I guess that hope just stayed with me."

Last October, Katelyn, after seeing classmates dressed in pink for breast cancer, the fourth grader had the idea to "Go Gold." She took it upon herself to reach out to her principal, to see about having a day dedicated to wearing gold. Principal McFarland of Roberts Elementary not only said yes, but encouraged Katelyn to fundraise as well.

So on Tuesday morning, Katelyn could be seen selling hundreds of donuts and popsicles for a dollar each. It was all to make her dream come true, a moment her mother was proud to witness, "I've never been more proud in my entire life. She has always had such a compassionate heart but to see her take that dark circumstances and bring about a great wonderful day there is no words to be able to express how proud I am of the young woman she is becoming and what she will do."

The fourth grader ended the event thinking she had collected $1,064.01 for two local foundations. One foundation is called Trent's Touch Foundation which gives financial support for families locally that are going through pediatric cancer. The Irwins were assisted by this foundation back in 2015.

The second foundation is the Marshall Fisher Adolescent and Young Adult Cancer Fund, located at UF Shands hospital. Both of the boys lost their lives too soon to cancer.

Janelle shares that cancer is vastly under-researched and underfunded, stating that nationally, only 4% goes to cancer research.

That's why when Janelle surprised Katelyn with the news that friends had raised even more money online, her reaction was priceless.

Janelle tells Katelyn, "Right now your online fundraiser is at $1,061 in addition to what you have raised today, so you have raised over $2,000 for the charities of your choice."

When asked how the news made her feel, Katelyn could not contain her excitement, "I'm excited."

And as Katelyn continues to fight for her brother and others, her mother beams with joy for both of her children, "For Grayson our hope is that he grows old and that he gets to tell his story one day and that he gets to do things like this and that he has a platform to say that I had a ten percent chance of survival and here I am. And for Katelyn I just pray she holds on to the passion that she has found. She is capable of doing great things and today was just a small example of the powerful impact she can have on her community."

The money, as stated previously, will be going to two local foundations. Katelyn wants to continue raising money as she and her brother get older.