While Park View Middle School underwent a few administrative changes this year, one thing that has not changed is the school’s commitment to community service.
At a school-wide assembly last Tuesday, Feb. 5, Pete Guyon, a special education teacher on the Crazy 8’s team, announced the kickoff for the second annual March Madness 3-on-3 basketball tournament to benefit The Tomorrow Fund. Last year’s tournament raised $1,000 for The Tomorrow Fund, and Guyon’s goal is to meet and exceed that number.
“This is a very worthy charity, and we are connecting this event to our Rachel’s Challenge commitment,” he said.
Guyon went on to explain that Tomorrow Fund is the only local non-profit charity that addresses the daily emotional and financial needs of children with cancer and their families.
“We thank you from the bottom of our hearts for the past support you have shown to our families,” said Kathy Connolly, the development director for The Tomorrow Fund.
Connolly went into greater detail clarifying how The Tomorrow Funds helps families.
“If a Tomorrow Fund family is being treated at Hasbro, we pay the bills to help our families. We pay for parking passes, the rent/mortgage payments, we make sure the lights stay on at home,” she said.
For some families, this could be a two- to four-year process over the course of receiving treatment.
“Everything we raise is through groups like you,” she told the children.
Connolly introduced Cheryl Parrillo, whose son, Stephen, is a 16-year-old sophomore at Cranston West. Stephen is a cancer survivor, and his family shares their personal experience with The Tomorrow Fund.
Parrillo told the story of how, when Stephen was younger, he was very active playing sports and he ran track and cross-country for CLCF. In March 2007, just after his 10th birthday, he started complaining that his left leg did not feel right and had started to swell. After going to their family pediatrician, they were sent immediately to Hasbro.
“Hasbro ran a lot of tests, x-rays and blood work to find out what was making Stephen’s leg swell,” she said.
The doctors called Parrillo and her husband into the hallway to talk to them.
“The doctors had to tell us our son had cancer and, more specifically osteosarcoma, a bone cancer,” she said, taking a moment to compose herself, as she was becoming emotional telling the story.
At that point, Hasbro brought in two of the pediatric cancer doctors from The Tomorrow Fund clinic to discuss the next steps. After many tests and scans were done, it was discovered that in addition to his knee, the cancer had spread and formed a small tumor in his left lung as well.
“The pediatric oncology staff was great. They explained what was going to happen, they proposed a timeframe for treatments and exactly what we could expect,” she said.
Parrillo went on to talk about the work The Tomorrow Fund does, besides holding fundraisers.
“They provide families with the clinic, social workers and child life specialists. They also provide support groups to patients, siblings and families of children still being treated and/or those that are already off treatment and may still need guidance and emotional support,” she said.
Stephen was an inpatient at Hasbro for a total of 270 days, from March 2007 to February 2008. During that time, he had 22 rounds of chemotherapy and nine operations, including 11 surgical procedures.
“Stephen had to have his left femur removed and a cadaver bone put in. In December 2009, and again in 2012, Stephen had to go back into surgery for what we call ‘a leg tune-up,’ Parrillo said.
The titanium plates, screws and pins in his left leg needed replacing with larger parts because he had grown. At the end of February, Stephen will go in for his chest CAT scan, and with an “all clear” he will be in remission.
“I am so grateful to The Tomorrow Fund. If they were not here in Providence, I probably would have been in Boston, and that would have made it difficult to get home to see my daughter, who was a seventh grader at Western Hills during this time,” she said.
Parrillo could not express her gratitude and appreciation enough for what The Tomorrow Fund has done and has meant to her family throughout this experience.
“Though my family did not become a Tomorrow Fund family by choice, we are extremely thankful for everything they did and still do for us,” she said.
Parrillo offered her support to the students at Park View on the upcoming basketball tournament.
“On behalf of my own family and the kids of The Tomorrow Fund, thank you all for so generously giving your time and energy to this fundraising event. Good luck with the basketball challenge, I hope that you all have a great time,” she said.
Parrillo also talked about The Tomorrow Fund program run at Hasbro called Camp Dotty, which is for the younger patients and their siblings. There are also programs for the teens. Camp Dotty allows children to experience the joy and fun of the activities in safe and appropriate environment for them.
Connolly presented a short video on Camp Dotty, showing what the patients get to do at camp and how much joy it brings into their lives. It resonated with the students, showing them what their fundraising efforts are being used for.
Guyon and colleague Chris Burke explained the outline of the tournament. There are no mixed boys and girls teams, and after the tournament there will be a celebratory banquet at Dave & Buster’s, where they will present the donation to The Tomorrow Fund.
Since the two winning teams were seventh graders last year, this year they will be defending their titles.
Park View Principal Mike Crudale took the opportunity to speak to the students about the games.
“This is not about basketball, t-shirts or trophies, it is about supporting The Tomorrow Fund. I, personally, am going to sponsor the two champion teams, and I challenge the faculty to step up as well,” he said.
Crudale is confident that the school community will do just that, supporting The Tomorrow Fund this year.
“With this being our second year running this event, our goal is to surpass the $1,000 we raised last year. It is also a way to offer students an after-school program while they are raising money for a great cause,” he said. “The theme all year at Park View has revolved around Rachel's Challenge, and this event ties into the ‘one act of kindness’ idea found in Rachel's Challenge. Our goal is to help the students understand the importance of helping The Tomorrow Fund and having a lot of fun doing it.”For more information about The Tomorrow Fund or Camp Dotty, visit www.tomorrowfund.org.