AP NEWS

Event aims to CURE childhood cancer

April 16, 2017 GMT

For a second year in a row, the Sisters on a Journey dinner that benefits Catie’s Fund, a non-profit that donates all proceeds to CURE Childhood Cancer, has sold out of tickets shortly after going on sale via social media. The Sisters group, however, still needs your help to make the event a success.

Sisters on a Journey Statesboro is seeking sponsor donations to hopefully meet or exceed last year’s total. Local event organizers Cyd Pagliarullo, Jody Polk and Hollie Jones also hope the community will take part in the silent auction, even if they do not attend the dinner. By going to the Sisters on a Journey Statesboro Facebook page, participants can bid on the items with a simple click of their cell phone.

At the 2016, first-time benefit, with upwards of 300 people in attendance, more than $50,000 was raised.

Pagliarullo said, “I know Effingham’s benefit this year made well over $100,000 and the Savannah event made $100,000, so if we make what we made last year, we will put the Sisters on a Journey/Catie’s Fund dinner at over a quarter of a million just this year.”

Catie’s Fund was created after an Effingham couple, Tre’ and Jenny Wilkins, received the heartbreaking verdict that their daughter, Catie, had medulloblastoma, an aggressive brain tumor, and then watched her fight cancer for more than three years before losing her battle in mid-January 2007 to a common virus due to an immune system that was compromised because of chemotherapy.

Catie’s parents and her pediatrician noticed developmental delays beginning at about the age of 6 months. Further observation and testing led to the discovery of a mass in her brain two days before her first birthday. Taken by ambulance to Atlanta, Catie endured a five-hour surgery on her birthday to remove a five-centimeter mass.

Catie had 12 surgeries, four different chemotherapy protocols and six weeks of radiation. The medicines Catie received were the exact same drugs administered to a 2-year-old cousin of Tre’s, fifteen years prior to Catie’s diagnosis, and the Wilkins were shocked that no new protocols were available for their precious daughter.

The Wilkins desperately wanted to take action to make a difference in the lives of other children and families who receive the devastating diagnosis of childhood cancer. In fact, nearly 16,000 children in the United States are diagnosed yearly and more than 40,000 children undergo cancer treatment in a given year.

It took a couple of years for the Wilkins’ to get organized – and take care of Izzy who was born exactly one week after Catie died and Chip who was born two years after Izzy – but the first Sisters on a Journey dinner was held in Springfield in 2011 with about 50 people in attendance, raised $5,000.

About the first Statesboro benefit dinner, Jenny Wilkins said: “I never thought God could take the worst event of my life and turn it into my favorite night of the year. Most people don’t understand how underfunded kids’ cancer research is, but less than four percent of federal funding is directed specifically for childhood cancer.”

The Statesboro Sisters on a Journey team have personal reasons for hosting the local event for the second year. Cyd Pagliarullo, mom of three children, is married to First Baptist Church College Minister Tony Pagliarullo. Tony and Catie’s dad, Tre’ are first cousins.

Host Jody Polk remembers the very minute she heard those devastating words, “Your child has cancer.” Anna Hays Polk is an Acute Lymphoid Leukemia survivor who was diagnosed in 2011, one day before her third birthday.

The third member of the Statesboro team, Hollie Jones, is a friend and former colleague of Jenny Wilkins in the Marlowe school system.

A bullet-point on the CURE website states that researchers believe childhood cancer can be cured in our lifetime, and Statesboro organizers hope the community will join in finding that cure.

For more information, to make a donation or to participate in the silent auction, visit the Sisters on a Journey Statesboro Facebook page.