Christmas party provides fun for young cancer survivors

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FORT WAYNE, Ind. (AP) — Lauren Fanning, 11, didn't want to leave the party.

"We don't get to be together a lot," said her mother, Jessica Fanning. The entire Fanning family — four kids, mother and a friend, all from Huntington — were at North Side High School on Sunday for the 29th annual Christmas Party for Kids Surviving Cancer.

Jessica Fanning's son, Logan, 14, was diagnosed in January with osteosarcoma, a bone cancer, and it's been tough for the family, Jessica Fanning told the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette ( But his big brother, Cameron, 16, was at the party to push the wheelchair Logan hopes to ditch in the new year and Ethan, 4, sat on his big brother's lap and provided the kind of humor only a 4-year-old can provide.

Lauren was supposed to be performing in a private production of "Peter Pan," but the special feeling of being with her family made her change her mind in the parking lot.

Twenty-one families came together for the anticipated event staffed by student and teacher volunteers in the high school cafeteria.

They were treated to face painting, a craft table, a meal partially donated by Olive Garden, and treats.

The second hour was a stage show in the auditorium by Dance V, a North Side dance troupe who performed several pieces.

Their holiday-themed intro had them entering the auditorium dressed in Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer costumes with flashing red noses.

The stage show was Logan's favorite part. "It was pretty cool," Logan, who will finish his last round of chemotherapy around Christmas, said. He said that before Santa, played by North Side earth science and biology teacher Dennis Fisher, started calling families to the stage to receive a packet of presents.

Roman de la Torre, a junior, was one of several North Side art students called upon by art teacher Allison Turcovsky to volunteer for the party.

"You've always got to pay your dues to these types of people," said de la Torre who drew caricatures. "You never know."

Jamera Jackson, 15, who painted nails, said she had a cancer scare about a year ago, a scare which prompted her to volunteer.

Her friends, Emily Zion, 16, and Isis Shaw, 15, helped with a craft that involved heating plastic beads into a design.

"I love art and I like helping people. It's one of my favorite things to do," said Hannah Kage, 15, a face painter who reported that butterflies and cars were the most popular designs that day.

It's the third year Crystel Miller, a North Side English teacher and alumna, has been the lead faculty adviser. She estimated that 200 people attended the party if you included the volunteers and the performers.

The party cost about $1,400 and much of that was donated by staff and students.

Each child was given a book that was chosen for the child's age, gender and genre preference. Half Price Books gave a discount, she added.

Students and staff work with Cancer Services of Northeast Indiana to host the party. Students adopt a specific family and shop for Christmas presents for each of the children in the family. The students then wrap the presents and attend the event with their designated family.

"I actually think there was more overwhelming support this year," said Amanda DeBaillie, a North Side English teacher who volunteered this year. There were at least 127 students volunteers for the event, she said.


Information from: The Journal Gazette,

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