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Genre Kids with Cancer Fund provides 'One blessing after another'

| Friday, Nov. 18, 2011

The holiday season is a time when the Genre Kids with Cancer Fund makes a huge impact for families dealing with a child undergoing treatment at Children's Hospital in Pittsburgh.

Tears still well in Linnie Willson's eyes when she talks about the difference the Fund made for her family last Christmas.

Willson's 18-month-old daughter, Sydney, was being treated for Ewing's Sarcoma, a tumor in her neck. The family had to quickly move to a home that did not have a coal furnace so Sydney could come home from the hospital for Christmas.

"I was so upset about not having the money or time for Christmas, plus the stress of moving," said Willson, who has four other children, including two who believed in Santa. "I was losing my hair. You can't imagine the helplessness emotionally."

Then the Genre's Kids with Cancer Fund stepped in and gave the Willson family two full days of Christmas spirit.

Daunette Baker of North Huntingdon, formed the nonprofit organization for her son, Genre, a few months after he was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia in 2009. His wish was for all the kids in Children's oncology unit to have a hand-held gaming system to help distract them from the numerous medical procedures.

The Genre's Kids with Cancer Fund is gaining recognition in charitable circles, as well as steadily increasing the help given to families truly in need while their child undergoes treatment at the hospital.

The fund has grown to include go-bags of products for parents staying at the hospital and funds for families who are brought to the attention of the Bakers by social workers who work closely with the pediatric unit.

"I was asked to make a list of five gifts for each child, and I was thrilled at the thought that they would get one gift," Willson said. "My kids received all five gifts. Daunette had everything wrapped and brought here to the house. It was stress free. There were even gifts for me and my husband -- Giant Eagle and gas gift cards and cookies.

"For two days we experienced the true meaning of the spirit of Christmas," said Wilson, of Charleroi, whose daughter has now been cancer-free for the last nine months. "I'm hoping people can tell how much the Fund's help made a difference to our family."

Donations are welcome to make this help possible, but the Fund's founders do not just wait for the generosity of others. They raise funds through an annual golf outing and a 5K race. They also seek school groups to spearhead donation drives for go-bag items or to sell their purple wrist bands.

The second annual Footsteps in Faith 5K Race and 1-Mile Fun Walk and Family Fun Day at Irwin Park Aug. 20 brought in $35,000 and had 600 participants -- both figures higher than in 2010. The event made enough to provide hand-held games for pediatric oncology patients for the next year.

"I think people are really starting to care, and with Christmas coming there will be families who will need help," Baker said. "There's one blessing after another."

The Fund now has a profile listed on the Pittsburgh Foundation list of charities for giving, as well as the Community Foundation of Westmoreland Couinty.

In addition, the Genre Kids with Cancer Fund is now one of the 10 official new charities listed for the 2012 Pittsburgh Marathon in May.

"Our financials have been reviewed and verified," said Jodi Fowler, of Leechburg, who organizes the annual local race for the fund. "We're very excited about our logo and information being on the marathon's web site for people to find."

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