Franklin Park family, affected by childhood cancer, helps raise funds
By Natalie Beneviat
Published: Wednesday, July 17, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
When their daughter Danielle was 2, a routine checkup by the pediatrician resulted in a shocking diagnosis for John and Michelle Carpenter.
Danielle's doctor found a nodule while pressing on her stomach, John Carpenter said. After tests, she was diagnosed with second-stage Wilms' tumor, a rare kidney cancer. Doctors removed the right side of Danielle's kidney, and she had six months of chemotherapy.
“We expected it to be a (routine) 2-year-old appointment,” Danielle's father said. “Thank goodness they found it.”
Now 9, Danielle is considered cancer-free, but that doesn't mean the Franklin Park family is done with cancer.
For the third consecutive year, the Carpenters are organizing a fundraising team — Danielle Rose's Against Childhood Cancer — for the 2013 Pittsburgh CureSearch Walk on Aug. 24 at Schenley Park in the city's Oakland neighborhood.
They hope others will join them to meet the local walk goal of $40,000. This year's walk, which takes about two hours, begins at 11 a.m., with registration at 10 a.m. The fee for participants ages 16 and older is $10. Younger participants walk for free.
CureSearch for Children's Cancer, a national nonprofit organization based in Bethesda, Md., funds childhood cancer research at locations across the country, including Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh. Last year's local event raised $33,000, said Courtney Bollman, community-development manager for CureSearch for Children's Cancer.
Bollman said while there have been a lot of advancements in research and overall cure rates for childhood cancers improved, there still are many rare cancers for which cure rates haven't changed.
Thirty-six children are diagnosed with cancer daily at an average age of 6, according to an online CureSearch statistics page.
Danielle's parents didn't expect their daughter to be part of such statistics when she was just a toddler. She had to endure surgeries and chemotherapy, but, her father said, she didn't care.
“She was 2 years old, and she didn't understand any of it. She just wanted to play,” John Carpenter said.
His wife said it was a lot to handle at times.
“The experience was overwhelming,” she said. “As you go along, you realize how much family and friends are important.”
In order to correct obstructions in her small intestine from operations for the cancer, Danielle had to have multiple surgeries to remove parts of that organ, as well. Though she is doing well now, her parents have to watch her diet and ensure she is absorbing enough nutrients.
Bollman said many walk participants are childhood cancer survivors, children who still have the disease or family members of someone who has or had a childhood cancer.
“It's definitely an opportunity for families to come together in the fight and celebrate the fundraising efforts and come together as a community,” said Bollman, 31, of Columbus, Ohio.
Danielle, whose middle name is Rose, encourages anyone to join the Danielle's Roses Against Childhood Cancer team together with her family and friends.
“This walk is important for you to raise money and find cures for cancer,” said Danielle, who will be a fourth-grader at St. Alexis Catholic School in McCandless and enjoys sailing with her family.
Donations and walk registration can be handled online. Those who want to support Danielle's team, which so far has raised more than $9,000 toward a goal of $20,000, can go to www.CureSearchwalk.org.
Michelle Carpenter, 41, said Danielle is a big reason the family continues to participate in the walk every year.
“We're impressed with her dedicated for the walk. She's the one who always says, ‘Come on, let's go',” Danielle's mother said.
Natalie Beneviat is a freelance writer for Trib Total Media.
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