Supporting children, families battling cancer

Supporting children, families battling cancer

On Monday, 12-year-old Ben Martinez rang a bell three times to signal his victory in the battle against cancer.
On Monday, 12-year-old Ben Martinez rang a bell three times to signal his victory in the battle against cancer.

"I am happy that I don't have to do it anymore, thank goodness," said Ben.

Just one year ago Ben was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer which affects only two percent of children. Learning of Ben's diagnosis was one of the hardest things his mother says she ever had to hear.

"Even though it was a challenge and a big journey and a battle for us, we have been so blessed," said Diane Martinez.

Both mother and son shared their blessing of survival by alerting the community to the prevalence of childhood cancer, and how everyone can join the fight. About 35 kids are diagnosed with cancer each day, according to the American Childhood Cancer Organization.

"It is definitely a celebratory party but I also want to bring awareness because people need to know. If we don't know about the problem we can't fix it," said Diane.

Families and organizations from around town joined at Mondavi Park in northwest Bakersfield to learn how to support children and their families who are battling cancer, often without help.

"They suffer alone a lot," said Briana Schechter, who knows personally the needs of families.

Four years ago her two-year-old niece died of brain cancer. She started an organization, Second Star to the Right, soon after to support other families dealing with the disease.

"We help financially with gas cards, grocery cards, groceries, dinners, anything that they need when they are home," said Schechter.

Many families travel more than 40 miles to stay with their child at the hospital and don't have a place to stay. Bakersfield Ronald McDonald House can help.

"There's three fully stocked bedrooms in the house, there's a kitchen that's fully stocked, there's a stove, microwave, refrigerator," said Sarah Keaveny of Ronald McDonald House.

Paramedics also joined the celebration to help ease kids' minds about riding in the ambulance, which often frightens little ones.

"They are usually pretty scared because of the needles and what we may be doing to them, so to comfort them we give them Siren the Rescue Hound," said Kim Tollison, Paramedic, about the furry friend they give to children riding in the ambulance.

"While we take care of them we ask them to take care of him."

Ben understands that fear but wants other kids to learn just how to fight cancer and, like him, to survive.

"Keep fighting on, cause my mom said there's a light at the end of the tunnel," said Ben. "So you just keep on fighting until you make it to the end."

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