We’ve told you about one of the most important parts of our curriculum—our Heart Projects. Not only do these projects teach children the importance of giving back, it helps them see the impact their hard work puts back into those in need. This year’s Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation project hit close to home. Home being where Big Blue Marble Academy started – Gilbert, SC.
Meet two-year-old Thomas Jaco from Gilbert. Thomas was diagnosed with bilateral Retinoblastoma this summer. Retinoblastoma is a rare eye cancer in which 250-300 new cases are seen each year. The cancer forms in the retina of the eye and can be found in one or both eyes. Most children diagnosed are between the ages of 0-5. Some symptoms are a “cats eye” glow or white mass seen in the pupil (The glow can sometimes be seen in flash photography, instead of red eye in response to a flash) pain in the eye, complaints of poor vision, one or both eyes turning inward or outward.
The family had noticed his right eye had a white appearance in his pupil and were referred to an eye doctor. After the initial diagnosis, they were sent to Duke to see a specialist and begin treatment. Thomas’ right eye was full of tumors and he could not see out of that eye so he had surgery to remove it in September. He has tumors in his left eye, but his vision is good. Currently they travel to Duke every four weeks to undergo chemotherapy and have eye exams under anesthesia to assess tumor response. Currently, Thomas is doing great with his treatments, but he still has a very long journey ahead.
After learning about Thomas’ story, and it being so close in our home office community, we knew immediately that we wanted to donate our Heart Project money in his honor. The children in our program worked hard this summer raising $5,710. In addition to the $5,210 we were able to send to Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation, we sent an additional $500 to Specs for Little Heroes in Thomas’ honor.
Specs for Little Heroes help provide protective eyewear for children affected by Retinoblastoma. The protective eyewear is expensive and often not covered by insurance.
Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation is committed to funding research projects with the most promising outcomes for finding a cure to childhood cancer. Our goal with this Heart Project is to help support their mission to fuel the pursuit of those research projects and empower all families with kids fighting cancer. And most of all, the children in our program are seeing first-hand, in their communities, how their efforts are making a difference for kids like Thomas.