NEWARK, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — Guiding your child through cancer treatments is never easy, but having to manage a long commute while doing so makes it even harder.
That’s why the New Jersey families of Valerie Fund children are grateful they have access to seven Valerie Fund medical centers within in a realtively short drive.
“We’re very thankful to have a facility so close to home that can give us the treatment that Gabby needs and help us maintain as much of a normal lifestyle,” Kim DeFilippo told WCBS 880’s John Metaxas.
DeFilippo’s 11-year-old daughter, Gabby, was diagnosed with leukemia this year. Gabby has been treated at The Valerie Fund center in Morristown, not far from her Livingston home.
“It’s been huge because I understand what it means to go into the city to seek treatment,” Kim DeFilippo said. “I had to go through that process with my stepfather and his prostate cancer, and it was a very stressful and trying time.”
The local care can make all the difference in the world.
“I don’t know what we would do if we had to travel like so many families do,” Kim DeFilippo said.
The Valerie Fund, which helps children diagnosed with cancer and blood disorders, is hoping to raise $1 million when it holds its annual walk and 5K run Saturday 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 said. 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.
Onessa Blenman is a woman on the mission.
Her son, Matthew, now 6, was diagnosed with sickle cell anemia when he was a month old.
“In a 1-month-old baby, your baby might be crying. You don’t know why the baby’s crying,” Blenman told Metaxas. “The baby’s arms might swell, legs might swell. All those are signs of crisis in sickle cell.”
But Matthew was lucky to have a Valerie Fund center near his Newark home.
“They’re always reachable,” Blenman said.
Blenman wants to get the word out about sickle cell anemia, a disease that predominantly strikes African-Americans.
“A lot of African-Americans are not aware of sickle cell disease,” she said. “I talked to a lot of people about it, so it needs to be more promoted out there.”
Matthew is now in first grade and is feeling fine. He’ll be at Verona Park with his mother Saturday trying to help others by raising awareness.