By: Trish Adkins
Childhood cancer hero families are the bedrock of what Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation (ALSF) does every day. Started by a hero — Alex Scott — and propelled forward by the belief that the safer treatments and cures children need and deserve are possible, ALSF draws inspiration from the stories of regular families who are launched into extraordinary circumstances.
Tony was just 2 years old when he battled neuroblastoma with his infant sister by his side. Now Tony is 16 years old; his sister Samantha is 14 years old. Tony has battled cancer two more times — and Samantha remains right alongside him for support.
Eli was 4 years old when his local children’s hospital ran out of options for treating his neuroblastoma. His family was desperate and the most promising treatment was 1,200 miles away from their home in Little Rock. The distance and expense were daunting, but ALSF had just started the Travel For Care (TFC) program. Eli became the first child to receive TFC support that gave his family hope.
Taylor was in middle school when what seemed like a normal pain from sports turned out to be osteosarcoma. Front-line treatment failed to cure Taylor; but a clinical trial funded by ALSF gave her a cure.
Each of these children followed a different path through the terrifying world of childhood cancer. Keep reading for more of these incredible, inspirational stories:
The Salerno Siblings
Tony was just 2 years old when he was first diagnosed with cancer. Then, two weeks later, his little sister, Samantha, was born. Tony battled stage IV neuroblastoma and his sister, Samantha, did what she did best: be his sister.
Now, the siblings are 16 and 14 years old. Tony’s neuroblastoma was cured, but it left him with a bevy of long-term side effects and complications, including a kidney transplant and two types of secondary cancer — lymphoma and skin cancer.
Samantha remains steady in her devotion to her brother, even though long hospital stays have kept them physically separated.
“My sister always has my back and would do anything for me. She is funny, smart and has great taste in older brothers,” said Tony.
The duo not only supports each other but are committed to fighting childhood cancer alongside ALSF by speaking at events, hosting fundraisers and advocating for cures for other kids.
Traversing the Distance: Eli
Eli was not a normal kid. He was extraordinary.
Music ran through his veins. He had an eclectic style, passionate opinions, and a mature sense of humor.
He also had childhood cancer.
Eli began his battle with neuroblastoma at 4 years old. When his local children’s hospital had done all they could, Eli was still not better. Desperate for options, his parents learned of a promising treatment plan at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia – 1,200 miles from their home in Little Rock, Arkansas.
The distance was daunting until ALSF reached out. “They said that they’re going to start this Travel For Care fund,” recalled Dawn, Eli’s mom. “‘We know that you're coming back and forth, we want to be able to help you. Would you guys be willing to participate in this new program?’
“We were like, ‘absolutely.’”
57 trips and 12 years later, Eli was changing the future of childhood cancer.
All Grown Up and Cancer-Free: Taylor
The pain in Taylor's shoulder first began during swim season. Then one day, her left arm went numb. Within a few days, she began treatment for osteosarcoma.
Taylor missed most of the sixth grade, but 18 months later, Taylor was cancer-free. That was until, suddenly, she couldn't catch her breath.
An emergency scan revealed that Taylor's cancer had relapsed in her lung. Doctors removed the affected lung, but still, Taylor needed treatment to make sure she did not relapse again. Her family waited, desperate for a cure.
Dr. Nabil Ahmed enrolled Taylor in a clinical trial at Texas Children's Hospital that was made possible by an infrastructure grant from ALSF.
“What I saw on paper was a girl full of life," said Dr. Ahmed.
This year, ALSF is celebrating 20 years since its Founder, Alex Scott, hosted her first lemonade stand kicking off a global movement to cure childhood cancer. Discover two decades worth of stories inspired by one girl’s belief in helping kids, like her, fight cancer.