MORRISTOWN, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — The Valerie Fund, an organization that helps children diagnosed with cancer and blood disorders, is hoping to raise $1 million when it holds its annual walk and 5K run June 14 at Verona Park.
More than 4,000 people are expected to participate in the event, Bunny Flanders, The Valerie Fund’s director of marketing and communications, told CBS 2’s Andrea Grymes.
The nonprofit group treats about 4,000 kids throughout New York and New Jersey each year and helps create a support system for patients and their families.
“We still need everybody’s support and everybody’s help,” Flanders said. “It’s just a great day. It’s a way for people in the patient’s families, communities, to give back to The Valerie Fund. And no gift is too small.”
Ali Hale, a graduating senior at West Essex High School, was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma Nov. 15, 2013.
“It was unreal,” Hale told Grymes. “I couldn’t even wrap my head around it.
“It all happened really quickly, but The Valerie Fund makes it so smooth, and they’re just there for you. They’re so supportive.”
Today, Hale is cancer-free. She will graduate in two weeks and plans to attend New York University in the fall.
“I’ve seen first-hand the kids that are a part of The Valerie Fund, and no one deserves it more than them,” Hale said of the money being raised through the walk. “It’s a great way to give back to them.”
Hale’s classmates at West Essex High honored her before her third round of chemotherapy by making a video set to the song “Brave” by Sara Bareilles. Watch the video above for excerpts.
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Katie Lowery Graziano was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma at age 11. Ten years later, she learned she had thyroid cancer, which she contracted from the treatment she received for her lymphoma, she said.
Graziano is now 24 and cancer-free. But she remembers what The Valerie Fund meant to her when she first got sick.
“They pretty much saved my life,” Graziano told WCBS 880’s John Metaxas. “Any questions I had, they answered. They made me feel safe. They made my parents feel safe, which made me feel comfortable.”
Graziano is now on her way, with a degree in environmental writing. She’ll be walking for The Valerie Fund.
“It’s a godsend,” she said. “I honestly don’t think I would be as happy and healthy as I am now if I didn’t go there to get treatment.”
Thomas Kurzeja was only 10 years old when he started having trouble while playing football — sprained ankles, broken bones. He lost 30 pounds before he received the frightening diagnosis.
“I was nervous, really nervous,” Thomas told Metaxas. “The next day, I went up. They found out I had leukemia.”
But Thomas’ dad, J.T., said his son had The Valerie Fund in his corner.
“We went up to the third floor,” J.T. said. “They sat with us. They explained the different parts of the blood, which my little guy’s pretty good at now. He knows his inside and out. And (they) explained what was happening, what occurred, what we need to do, start working on the game plan.
“It was an amazing experience because, up until that point, I never heard of this organization. I never knew there was a hospital for children in Morristown (New Jersey), and it opened your eyes.”
Thomas will undergo chemotherapy and spinal taps throughout his middle school years. But he’s already feeling better.
“I’ve been getting stronger,” he said. “I’m starting to jog a little bit. I’m riding my scooter, my bike. And me and my dad are going to the Y so I can start swimming again.”
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