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Dinner, game to benefit Duquesne student

| Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2012, 5:02 a.m.
Myaisha Robinson, of Duquesne, with her 10-year-old daughter Toni Taylor on December 3, 2012. Taylor was diagnosed with Rhabdomyosarcoma in 2010 and will undergo surgery in January. The “Tip-Off for Toni” fundraiser basketball game and pasta dinner will be held in her honor at the Duquesne Education Center on Thursday December 6. Guy Wathen | Tribune-Review

Duquesne City School District is holding a fundraiser Thursday for one of its students suffering from a rare cancer affecting her eye.

A pasta dinner is planned at 4:30 p.m. at Duquesne Education Center, 300 Kennedy Ave., to benefit the family of 10-year-old Toni Taylor.

It will be followed in the school gymnasium at 6:15 with a “Tip-Off for Toni” basketball game.

“It is our current staff versus alumni,” school nurse Maureen Callas said. “Anyone who has graduated from high school (can play) so it doesn't affect their eligibility with the WPIAL.”For Toni, life hasn't been the same since she started experiencing headaches in the summer of 2010.

“She was having headaches before the tumors began to appear,” her mother, Myaisha Robinson, said.

The tumors came along with a rare cancer.

According to the National Institutes of Health Library of Medicine, “rhabdomyosarcoma is a cancerous (malignant) tumor of the muscles that are attached to the bones.”

According to the National Institutes of Health, it is a rare cancer — with only “several hundred new cases per year” in the United States — but is the most common soft tissue tumor in children.

“She can see but it is like a double vision since they removed the second tumor,” her mother said. “She wears a patch so it does not mess up her good eye.”

Toni has had two tumors affecting her eye, one of which was removed in November 2010.

“She has a very aggressive optic nerve tumor,” Callas said. “She's had operations to debulk the tumor but the tumor keeps returning.”

Toni is a fifth-grader at Duquesne Education Center but hasn't been in a classroom in two years.

“She was going back to school this year,” Robinson said. “They have a homebound teacher coming out working with her. When she is in the hospital she has a teacher working with her.”

The family thought her cancer was in remission.

“When the second tumor was diagnosed, I was very scared,” Robinson said. “It was very aggressive. She was off chemo treatment. It would have been a year that she was off.”

Toni isn't always homebound.

“I can go outside and play with my friends,” Toni said.

“Her spirit is pretty good,” her mother said. “She is able to get around. She is able to play.”

Toni lives with her mother, 14-year-old sister, aunt and 1-year-old cousin. So far, costs have been covered.

“By the grace of God everything has been covered by her medical insurance,” Robinson said.

The family gets support from others in the community, including churches.

“They say they're praying for me,” Toni said.

Callas and school counselor Monica Walker are the point persons in the fundraising effort.

“There's a whole bunch of us involved (among faculty, staff and administrators at Duquesne),” Callas said. “We've been involved since Toni was diagnosed. I touch base with the mom quite frequently.”

Callas said the Olive Garden restaurant near Century III Mall is donating pasta and sauce. Other sponsors include the district, Nutrition Inc. and Pittsburgh Popcorn.

“We are still accepting donations,” Callas said. “The generosity has been overwhelming.”

The generosity has gone beyond this week's dinner.

“(Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 188) made a cash donation to purchase Thanksgiving dinner for Toni and her family,” Callas said.

For more information about Thursday's event, Callas can be reached at or 412-466-9600.

Patrick Cloonan is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1967, or