September begins football season, the feeling of fall, but it's also childhood cancer awareness month. The We Care Foundation held it's yearly Light Up The Night event to celebrate the lives of children with cancer.
Approximately 50 supporters and cancer survivors participated in the event. This is the 8th year for the event and the second year to be held at the University of Arkansas at Fort Smith. The event began at 6 p.m. with lighting of the candles around 7 p.m. Four families were honored along with other survivors.
The location was moved two years ago to the University of Arkansas at Fort Smith campus for more visibility and to get students involved. Only a handful of supporters showed up last year because of weather. This year saw more supporters than previous years with hopes of more supporters in years to come.
Maureen Didion wants to make others aware of the whole process of what a family goes through with a child who has been diagnosed with cancer.
"You hear about adults who have cancer, but children don't have voices and parents can't speak for them because they are so busy taking care of them and other household needs, so we (We Care Foundation) are their voices,” she said.
The organization is in its 23rd year, and has helped hundreds of children. It was started by seven women and one man who was a medical director. Didion is the only original founder left with the organization.
We Care Foundation is the presenters of Camp Dream Street. It is an Arkansas-based foundation dedicated to improving and enriching the lives of children in Arkansas, eastern Oklahoma, and southern Missouri. The foundation serves children from birth through age 21 with cancer and the related blood-forming diseases, including but not limited to aplastic anemia, hemophilia, and sickle cell anemia.
Charles Ruiz is a cancer survivor. He has participated in Camp Dream Street as a camper and now "wants to be a role model for the kids and will also be working as a counselor during Camp Dream Street." He works as a volunteer for the We Care Foundation along with being a nursing student at UAFS where he is a junior in the program. He received a scholarship through the We Care Foundation to attend college.
Every program sponsored by the We Care Foundation focuses on the future. They believe their cancer survivors deserve the same opportunities for personal growth and development as every other young person.