“As you can imagine it’s been a rough year, but this is something that helps with healing,” said Johanna Bowers, a Spanish teacher at Francis F. Wilson Elementary School that has helped lead the charge in raising more than $25,000 for childhood cancer research.
The funds were raised in memory of Anthony Caiden Rodriguez, the 3-year-old son of Mrs. Rodriguez, who has taught Spanish at Floyd B. Watson and Riverside elementary schools for the last several years. Anthony was diagnosed with glioblastoma, a type of cancer affecting the brain or spinal cord, on July 14, 2017, according to his father, Luis. He died three weeks later on Aug. 5.
On June 22, the Rodriguez family began raising money for the St. Jude Walk/Run to End Childhood Cancer, which took place last Sunday in Massapequa. With a goal of $25,000, they surpassed that mark on the morning of Sept. 14, and had raised about $30,000 as of Monday.
“Our goal more than anything is to save a child,” Luis said. “We couldn’t save our child, but there’s possibilities every day to save someone else’s child.”
Bowers, who has taught at Wilson School for about 10 years, said she reached out to her “Wilson family” and others district-wide to help the Rodriguez family and all families that are affected by pediatric cancer. Students, parents, teachers and faculty of the Rockville Centre School District pitched in to help the cause.
“The support has been there since day one, and to see the community come together to donate and help … is really important to us,” Bowers said.
Each year in the U.S., about 15,780 children and teenagers are diagnosed with cancer, according to the American Childhood Cancer Organization. Roughly one in 285 children in the U.S. will be diagnosed with cancer before their 20th birthday.
Students at Wilson were encouraged to wear gold, the color of National Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, on Sept. 14. They were also asked to each bring one dollar to contribute to the effort.
“Change has to come,” Luis said. “I think that if each one of us continues to plant a seed in the ground, change will come.”
Luis thanked the community and school district for the love and support over the last year, which he said has helped the healing process. “You relive the moments every day,” he said. “But God is good.”
Editor’s Note: Luis Rodriguez asked that his wife’s first name not be used.