Event brings out fun and awareness

September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, and the Eli Jackson Foundation did its part in helping spread the word to Chilton County with a “Be Bold Go Gold” event on Sept. 16.

The event was held at Collins Chapel Park in Clanton and included a fun area for children with inflatables, obstacle courses, face painting and a cupcake walk.

“We wanted to do something to make the community more aware,” Tiffany Studdard said. “You don’t realize how many people in the area are affected until you start asking around.”

Cancer can have an effect on entire families as they support a loved one through their fight. When it affects the lives of children, it creates a whole different type of heartbreak.

“It’s sad when anyone has cancer, but for a child, they are affected differently,” Studdard said. “They miss out on playing with their friends and what it means to be a kid.”

According to Studdard, one of the primary goals of the event was to fight childhood cancer by embracing the spirit of a child. That was evident with several families and children running around the park.

The Eli Jackson Foundation is in honor of Studdard’s nephew Eli Jackson, who called Chilton County home and was diagnosed with a rare brain tumor when he was 6 months old. He lost his battle just five days before his third birthday in October 2015.

“This is the community that helped support our family when Eli was going through all of his sickness,” Studdard said. “We wanted to do something to give back to them.”

Proceeds from the event will be donated to Children’s Hospital in Birmingham to help in childhood cancer research, and donations were taken to purchase red wagons that children use to get around the hospital and to travel back and forth for treatment.

“Wheelchairs are scary and you don’t want to roll around in a bed, so that’s why we have the wagons,” Studdard said. “It allows them to get out of their room and explore.”

Yellow balloons were released and a moment of silence was shared by those in attendance in honor of all the children who have fought or are continuing to battle cancer. Yellow is the designated color of Childhood Cancer Awareness Month.

Families with children who are cancer survivors were on hand, including Jennifer Till and her daughter Kinlee Till.

“The treatments are tough and they are old,” Jennifer Till said. “We need more funding for research. The more people see children fighting [cancer], the more it will hopefully get awareness out there.”

Kinlee Till was diagnosed with cancer at 16 months old, and after five rounds of chemotherapy at Children’s Hospital and surgery at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee, she has been nearly two years cancer-free.

Jennifer Till is from Chilton County and is proud that the local community is coming together for such a worthy cause.

As soon as she got word that the Eli Jackson Foundation was planning to host the event, she knew that it was something that she and her daughter would not miss.

“I’ll never miss an event that someone is doing for childhood cancer, or the opportunity to give glory to God for what he did for my child,” Till said.

The cupcake walk was a popular hit with kids, as they walked around 10 chalk-drawn numbers on the pavement. When a number was drawn the winner received their pick of a sweet treat.

Booths of local vendors were also setup at the park for adult enjoyment, while the children entertained themselves.

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