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Awareness needed on childhood cancer

Maranda Wright and her son, Ward.

Maranda Wright and her son, Ward.

September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. Who knew? Definitely not me until we were thrown into that world! And, I must admit, even in the most recent years, I have not pushed awareness like I should have -- but that I hope to change, starting now.

Amazing things happen during Childhood Cancer Awareness Month -- families, friends, communities and strangers unite in the name of fundraising for the pediatric cancer population. In our state of Georgia alone, thousands of dollars are raised to support causes from research to direct family support.

Families proudly display gold ribbons (the ribbon that represents childhood cancer), host car washes, sell lemonade, host radiothons/telethons, participate in online giving campaigns, host pageants and parades, and the list goes on ... but all with the common goal of raising money for children and families living the nightmare of cancer.

Why must we work so hard to raise money? I'm glad you asked, because I wondered the same thing myself.

Did you know that the pediatric oncology population only receives about 2 percent federal funding? Yes, 2 percent -- I didn't mistakenly leave a zero off. "Wow!" is all I can say.

As parents, friends and neighbors of these precious children, we pay billions in taxes every year for only 2 percent to go to research and programs specific to childhood cancer. Sadly, these children are too young and their parents are often too drained (physically, emotionally, financially) to drive mega-campaigns to make up the additional funding needed.

I've found myself envious of the attention that surrounds the pink ribbons, the yellow bracelets and the red dresses (all very worthy causes) and wondered why the world didn't seem as concerned about our children. But I quickly realized that envy won't advocate, won't raise a single dollar and absolutely won't make a difference. My attitude must change -- who says that our gold ribbons can't become known in every household like the pink ribbon, the yellow bracelet or the red dress? We can have a voice, but it will have to be through friends, family and supporters like you. Please help!

There are many ways to give during Childhood Cancer Awareness Month and I pray that you will find a way to support our cause. If you haven't already adopted an organization that focuses on pediatric oncology, allow me to suggest our host organization, Jay's HOPE (www.jayshope.org), or search out one for yourself. But please don't let September come to an end without doing something to make a difference in the lives of the children who, without a choice, have been forced to fight for their lives.

Maranda Wright lives in Albany with her husband, Tom, and two children. The couple started the Pay It ForWARD Fund under the Jay's HOPE organization in honor of their son, Ward, a cancer survivor. The fund exists to support families with pediatric oncology patients in the Southwest Georgia area.