SUMMERVILLE—Rachel Kolar has a love/hate relationship with the date of March 9. On one hand, she loves it because it is her son, Reece’s, birthday, and she will never forget welcoming him into the world on that day back in 2012. But, on the other hand, it was the date in 2018 that she found out he had cancer.
It was brain cancer — medulloblastoma to be exact. At just 6 years old, Reece faced brain surgery, chemotherapy and radiation. He endured 56 weeks of treatments, including 30 radiation treatments and 37 weeks of chemotherapy.
The brain surgery left him mute for three weeks and unable to walk for six. Gradually, Reece, who is now 8 and a second-grader at Summerville Catholic School, regained strength and has been declared NED (no evidence of disease).
Kolar believes wholeheartedly in the power of prayer.
“He’s thriving, riding a bike and running. This is the best case scenario. God has provided,” she said.
And through it all, her Catholic faith never left her. But, she said that it was the “huge support system” that Summerville Catholic provided for her family that was truly powerful.
“From the moment Reece was diagnosed as a kindergartener there, the community support was amazing. They have done so much for us over the years,” Kolar explained.
Zara Rushin, the school’s administrative assistant, said they wanted to rally around the Kolars. Over the past two years, they have held a number of fundraisers to help the family, and also for pediatric cancer research in general.
“When you become a cancer mom, you want there to be more money for pediatric cancer research. There isn’t enough funding for cancer in children. You would think there would be, but there isn’t. They are being given drugs geared towards adults. As a mom, you want there to be better treatments offered for kids,” Kolar said.
Summerville Catholic has raised money in a variety of ways, including pajama days, and donations for wrist bands and T-shirts.
Rushin said the most recent fundraiser was called Hearts of Gold. A monetary donation was given for each heart that the students colored gold and they were displayed in the school.
“It changed the school when Reece was diagnosed,” Rushin said. “It has been an amazing journey and he has touched us all.”
And Summerville Catholic isn’t the only school involved. Throughout the diocese, schools participated in a program called Kidz in Lids, which raised over $6,000 for cancer research from 14 schools.
St. Martin de Porres School in Columbia adopted the program to benefit the Children’s Cancer Partners of the Carolinas. On the last Friday of each month, which is designated as “spirit day,” students and staff wore their favorite hat and spirit day attire in exchange for a donation. Children donated $1 and the staff donated $3. In total, St. Martin de Porres raised $500 for the program.
The small school of about 45 students in pre-K through sixth grade considers generosity to be a key component of a Catholic education, said Delores Gilliard, principal.
“We want to adopt projects like this to show our students how important it is to give back,” she said.
Cameron Sullivan, a fifth-grader at St. Martin de Porres, agreed.
“We want to support children with cancer because we want them to get to go to camp and have some fun. Giving improves the lives of others,” she said.
“It’s important to give to others. Giving shows Christ’s love to the world,” said Lilly Ezike, a sixth-grader.
Laura Allen, executive director for Children’s Cancer Partners of the Carolinas, explained that the funds raised through Kidz in Lids are used exclusively to ensure local children in the Carolinas get treatment.
“We also help with lodging, meals, home care needs … and we step in with financial emergencies, like evictions, insurance or utility cancellations, repossessions and funeral costs, should tragedy occur,” Allen said, adding that she appreciates everything the Catholic community has done to help raise awareness and funds.
“It is so exciting to see Catholic schoolchildren all across South Carolina giving back to their communities by helping schoolmates and neighbors battling cancer, the No. 1 disease killer of children,” she said.
By Theresa Stratford