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Fundraisers boost Belle Vernon student's battle with leukemia

| Saturday, Aug. 2, 2014, 4:54 p.m.
Kelsy Lawson has acute lymphocytic leukemia – T cell, a cancer of the blood that develops from a kind of white blood cell important to the immune system.

Kelsy Lawson of Rostraver was an energetic and active senior at Belle Vernon Area High School, playing soccer and running track for the Leopards when she was dogged by unexpected tiredness, pains in her chest and back, and unexplained bruising that started early this year.

After months of doctors visits and trips to the hospital without an accurate diagnosis, Kelsy learned on May 28 that she was suffering from acute lymphocytic leukemia – T cell, a cancer of the blood that develops from a kind of white blood cell important to the immune system. The dreaded diagnosis came about a week before graduation and less than a month before her 19th birthday, said her mother, Kelly Lawson.

“It's (T-cell leukemia) is more challenging to treat and people are more prone to infections,” Kelly Lawson said.

Kelsy's plans for playing soccer at the University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg this fall have been put on hold while she undergoes a heavy dose of chemotherapy, followed by radiation and blood transfusions to boost her platelets, Kelly Lawson said. Her daughter is in a treatment cycle that will continue for about two years, Kelly Lawson added.

For now, the treatments have left her immune system “shot,” Kelly Lawson said of her daughter. She was able to attend graduation but wore a surgical mask.

Because of the fear of infection to a patient with a compromised immune system, Kelsy does not go out with her friends but communicates through her phone, Kelly Lawson said.

Dealing with the healthcare system and learning about the disease and treatment has been a challenge, Kelly Lawson said. She and her husband, Michael, also have three other children: Cody, 21; Colton, 12; and Kaydin, 7.

With the Lawson family facing expenses resulting from her treatment at Children's Hospital in Pittsburgh, an online fundraising site, Kelsy's Leukemia Fund, has been set up on Give Forward at's-leukemia-fund. As of July 29, $835 was raised toward the goal of $1,000.

North Belle Vernon officials have decided to join the fundraising efforts for Lawson by splitting the proceeds from an Aug. 16 fundraiser at the North Belle Vernon Community Park with the Lawson family, said North Belle Vernon Councilman Robert J. Sokol, an organizer of the event.

The event will be held from noon to 5 p.m.

The organizers also will hold a “Sock-It” cancer fundraiser for Kelsy. Those attending the event can purchase a sock for $5 and write their name on it. The socks will all be sewn on a quilt to be given to Kelsy, along with all of the money collected from the sock sale.

Those interested in volunteering or making a donation can contact Sokol at 724-929-2749.

The fundraiser will include a dodgeball tournament for children and adults. The tournament will feature competition among five-member teams, which pay a $25 entry fee. Those wanting to compete must preregister by Aug. 9.

A skills competition for baseball, hockey, soccer, basketball and football players also is planned, Sokol said. Food and drinks also will be available.

The organizers have received sponsorships from individuals and companies, “but we are still on the short side of our goal,” Sokol said.

“Ever though she is from Rostraver Township, the North Belle Vernon Council decided to help her out by sharing our park project fundraising with her. It was the right thing to do when we heard the sad news,” Sokol said.

Kelly Lawson said the family was touched by the fundraisers that already have been held for Kelsy, as well as the upcoming one.

Those seeking more information about the fundraiser can contact Sokol at 724-929-2749.

Joe Napsha is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-836-5252 or