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Bainbridge youths ‘Make Some Noise’ about pediatric cancer
Several Bainbridge Island teenagers made a statement recently that could have saved doctors and pharmaceutical representatives the world over a lot of lab time: Friendship cures cancer.
With greater support and interest from an entire concerned community, they proved, a cure is a lot closer than you might think.
Bainbridge High School students Tally Black-Brown, 16, Ben LaRoche, 17, and Maxsena Butler, 16 – three volunteer junior board members of the Northwest chapter of national pediatric cancer research foundation Make Some Noise – led an initiative to raise awareness and funding for promising cure research being done in Seattle by hosting a fundraiser student art auction earlier this month at the Bainbridge Island Museum of Art.
They set out to raise $35,000, the approximate cost of sending one child through the treatment.
They raised $75,000.
The student art auction, which was attended by more than 100 patrons, was the brainchild of Black-Brown, himself a childhood cancer survivor and accomplished amateur photographer. With the abundance of great young artists and performers on Bainbridge, and the availability of BIMA as an ideal venue, he said he knew that there was no reason to wait to get more involved in the pursuit of a cure.
The event was staffed by additional Make Some Noise junior board members and other local student volunteers. The entertainment for the event included performances by 2012 BHS graduate and cellist Taylor Rae Jensen, as well as other guitarists, dancers and improv comedy groups including Good Hue, Bainbridge Dance Friends and Not Applicable.
Artwork was donated by a number of student artists in a variety of mediums including photographic prints, drawings, ceramics and paintings.
Black-Brown became acquainted personally with the devastating effects of childhood cancer when, at the age of 14, a pain in his hip was diagnosed as Ewing’s Sarcoma, a kind of pediatric bone cancer.
He would ultimately endure 10 months of chemotherapy and invasive surgeries at Seattle Children’s Hospital. During this time he met fellow cancer survivor the then-13-year-old Malcolm Sutherland-Foggio, grandson of Bainbridge Island residents Jack and Carole Sutherland and founder of Make Some Noise, which now boasts regional chapters across the country.
Proceeds from the Bainbridge auction and other Make Some Noise fundraising events will go to aid promising research, including that being done by Bainbridge’s Dr. Michael Jensen at his Seattle lab.
Jensen, a global pioneer in cancer research, uses a patient's own immune system to target cancer cells and although his research is still at an early stage, it has shown tremendous promise during initial clinical trails.
Black-Brown said that the amount raised was "pretty mind-blowing."
"We didn't have that many people in there," he said of the auction, which also featured a presentation by Jensen about his research.
Fellow Junior Board Members LaRoche and Butler agreed that the event had been more successful than they had hoped, both in money raised and in the availability of support from their fellow students and community members.
"It wasn't the first time I've asked my friends to volunteer for this group," LaRoche said. "The reaction was just like it had been in the past, it was like 'Yeah, I'm ready to help.'"
Friendship got them help, but compassion kept everyone involved, said Butler.
"After they were volunteering and they were there and they witnessed the [auction] and they heard Dr. Jensen's speech. I think that they were really moved too and understood a lot more what was going on with the event and wanted to get much more involved."
LaRoche said he originally became involved because he was "long time friends" with Black-Brown, and just wanted to do what he could to help his friend. He did not know, he said, to what proportions their efforts would ultimately grow.
"Knowing Tally since he was diagnosed, it's very close to home because one of my friends was very severely affected by pediatric cancer," he explained. "I feel like it's not just his battle but it's also kind of my battle because it affected my life so much as well as his."
All three students agreed that the experience had been extremely fulfilling.
"I feel like we're finally making an impact," Butler said. "When we saw Milton [Wright III] talk [at the auction] - he was one of the patients who was cured by Dr Jensen's research - it just made me feel like things are actually going to change."
"Visiting Tally in the hospital, you see all those kids there and to see kids out of the hospital and recovering was just a really good feeling," she said.
Jack Sutherland, president and CEO of Make Some Noise NW and grandfather of program's founder, said that when first approached with the idea by Black-Brown in April he had was on board but knew it would take some several months at least to set things up for such an event.
The students got together and decided that wasn't fast enough and started making plans to hold the event in early June.
"It all came down to two words," explained Sutherland. "Why wait?"
Why wait, indeed?
To make a donation to Make Some Noise, or to learn more about pediatric cancer and volunteer opportunities, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.makenoise4kidsnw.org.