Coming together for our kids

May. 31, 2014 @ 06:34 PM

Sgt. Jessica West of the Henderson Police Department shed her head of hair for children she knew who lost their lives to cancer and countless others she never will know.

West and her fellow participants raised more than twice their goal of $5,000.

She would do again she if she could.

“I did it because of a lot of people that are very close to me and friends in the community have cancer, and it’s something that is going to help,” she said after going bald to support the St. Baldrick’s Foundation. “It makes me feel good helping them when they see us do this.”

St. Baldricks events, like the one on Garnett Street on Saturday, raise money to fund research cures for childhood cancers, which claim the lives of more children in the United States than any other disease.

The Fraternal Order of Police, Hubert E. Tyndall Lodge No. 33 and Henderson Police Department, in conjunction with the Henderson Downtown Development Commission, partnered to present the first St. Baldrick’s Day in downtown Henderson.

Worldwide, a child is diagnosed every three minutes, according to the foundation’s website.

Henderson Police Chief Marcus Barrow said he and other officers have personal connections with disease.

He lost his father to cancer four years ago.

Downtown Development Director Pam Hester said she was disappointed at the low turnout — less than 100 people — but still proud of the amount of money raised for the town's first event.

All told, 107 participants and nine teams raised in excess of $12,000 since the beginning of May.

“Great things can happen when people come together like this,” she said.

Sgt. David Pittman Jr., of the Henderson police, told the audience at Saturday’s event about Tyler Brewer’s battle with childhood cancer.

Tyler discovered a large mass on the side of his neck one morning when he was only in the third grade.

He was diagnosed with T-cell lymphoma, a rare form of cancer, on his father’s birthday.

“I was told by the doctors if I had not been an active kid but overweight and out of shape, like most of today’s society, I probably wouldn’t be here today and that struck home with me,” Tyler wrote in his testimonial. “I encourage anyone and everyone to make lifestyle changes not just for yourself but for your kids and others around you. … We are all given a chance in this one life we have to live so make the most of it, live it to the fullest and without regrets, give back and help others and this world will be a better place with one less sick child one day at a time.”

Members of the police department read testimonials from dozens of children diagnosed with childhood cancer, including Michael Brown, who died last year.

Brown was diagnosed with Stage IV Ewing’s sarcoma when he was 12. He had a large mass on his right hip with small spots in his lungs.

“He was on a drug that helped to rebuild his white blood cells after every chemo, a daily shot of a blood thinner because the tumor was compressing on an artery, anti-nausea medicine, medicine to prevent mouth sores from the chemo and two kinds of pain medicine,” his mother, Jennifer Cimbalista, wrote. “His chemo was scheduled for every two weeks dependent upon his blood counts, which were drawn twice a week. He received countless blood and platelet transfusions throughout his treatment. He stayed positive through it all and really responded to it.”

Brown’s health worsened last summer, and he died on Sept. 25 at home.

“He was and still is the bravest person I’ve ever known,” she wrote. “If we can raise more money for children’s cancer research, hopefully more children and their families won’t have to go through what so many others go through.”

Contact the writer at smansur@hendersondispatch.com.