By the end of the year, doctors will diagnose more than 10,000 cases of cancer in children under 15, according to the National Cancer Institute. September is childhood cancer awareness month, and it’s your chance to shine a spotlight on the disease. Take the first step with the Candlelighters Childhood Cancer Foundation of Nevada, when it hosts its 26th annual Superhero 5K on September 10.
“We were founded … by two families who had children battling cancer, and they knew that there would be more families to follow in their footsteps,” says Melissa Cipriano, executive director of the Candlelighters, which has illuminated the lives of cancer-stricken families since 1978. “What started out as a support group … has grown over the years into helping families with financial assistance, emotional support and quality of life programs.”
The Superhero 5K is one of the nonprofit’s leading fundraisers. Cipriano says the organization is expecting close to 2,000 participants, and hopes to raise up to $258,000. Since it’s a superhero 5K, you can dig out that dated Aquaman costume from your closet because no one’s going to jest you when you’re fighting a villain like cancer.
Event contributions go directly toward the Candlelighters’ free services. “Cancer doesn’t affect just the diagnosed child,” Cipriano says. “It affects the entire family.” The foundation assists families with mortgage and rental payments, utilities, copay reimbursements, travel costs when a child must leave state for treatment and local transportation. The nonprofit also offers bereavement support, counseling for grieving family members and help with funeral costs. In one year, Cipriano says, they can work with up to “600 kids, and that is both diagnosed child and siblings combined.”
Any oncologist-referred, diagnosed child under 21 qualifies for help from the Candlelighters. And most times, that turns into a serious commitment. “It’s not just as simple as, ‘Oh, your child has cancer, they’ll be better in a couple months,’” Cipriano says. “An average treatment plan for a child is anywhere from two and a half to three and a half years, depending on the type of cancer they have.”
Years of this disease can weigh any family down. The Candlelighters provide emotional support in the forms of support groups, marriage and family therapy, art therapy and play therapy. Ultimately, it’s all about serving the entire family. Cipriano says the Candlelighters arrange picnics and movie nights, where they book the Brenden Theatre at the Palms for the families. And they recently returned from a summer camp trip to Big Bear with 110 kids, including the siblings. All of these events are possible through the contributions made at large events such as the Superhero 5K.
Pre-registration ends September 7, and the cost to participate is $40 for adults and $15 for children ages 3-12. If you miss the deadline, walkup registrations are still available on the day of the event, but the adult fee is $45. Of course, Candlelighter families pay with nothing but their presence, as they should.
“These are all families that are going through this war together,” Cipriano says. “They know that when they come to Candlelighters events, they’re around their tribe.”
Candlelighters Childhood Cancer Foundation of Nevada’s Superhero 5K
At Mountain’s Edge Exploration Park, 5K race begins at 8 a.m., Superhero walk and mile begins at 8:15 a.m. To make a donation, volunteer or get more information, visit candlelightersnv.org.