For the last 10 years, the Pumpkin Run at Margaret Stenersen Elementary has been a fun effort to raise funds for the school. But this year, the kids who ran on Oct. 27 did so to help out a little girl.
With pumpkins dotted around the field, 385 students from kindergarten to Grade 5 sprinted, jogged and walked for the event that usually raises $200.
By Thursday afternoon, before the run began, that amount had already tripled.
The money raised was in support of Grade 1 student Cheyann Taylor.
Last February, Cheyann, 6, was diagnosed with leukemia, a cancer of the bone marrow and the blood.
Cheyann will miss the Pumpkin Run this year because of a fever that developed over the weekend. Last Monday, she was taken to Children’s Hospital in Vancouver.
“If she can’t go to school, she cries, sometimes for over an hour,” said her mom Montana Taylor, 31.
“If she has a fever or her [immunity] counts go down, she can’t be there, and she doesn’t understand that.”
Instead, Cheyann draws or watches hockey from her hospital room. She is currently on a 10-day rotation chemotherapy treatment plan.
But at school, she’s just like one of the kids.
Even though she was ill during sports day last year, she still participated, getting her teacher Patti Evans to carry her through some of the stations.
Her parents are adamant that she keep up with school work, with Evans dropping it off if Cheyann is away.
But the chemotherapy has still taken a toll. During picture day, she wore a hat, having lost her hair. The treatment has also affected her eyesight, and she now needs glasses.
Montana is not able to work, because she said that most people are uncomfortable offering care to Cheyann because she is so vulnerable to illness.
Ryan, Cheyann’s stepfather, often has to miss work to drive Cheyann to the hospital or to school. Although Montana has her licence, she currently does not drive.
The funds raised Thursday will help with these costs.
But it’s the support of the students and families at the school that has impacted this Abbotsford family.
Moving to Fraser Valley from Kelowna in August 2010, it was only a short six months later that the family got Cheyann’s diagnosis.
With their friends and family still in Kelowna, Montana was grateful for the support of students, parents and Evans in particular.
“She is going to be one of those teachers that Cheyann will always talk about.”
Evans often drives Cheyann home from school, and makes sure to visit the little girl if she is in hospital.
At the beginning of the school year, Evans explained to the class that Cheyann has had an illness in her blood, that her medicine is very strong and that is why she has lost her hair.
“It’s a lesson for the other kids, to see what this child is rising above,” Evans said.
For kids with Cheyann’s diagnosis, treatment spans two-and-a-half years. Montana expects that her therapy will be complete sometime in 2013.
For information or to donate funds for the Taylor family, call Margaret Stenersen Elementary, 3060 Old Clayburn Rd., at 604-859-3151.