Local children help raise funds for cancer research

Photo: Saket Ashar walks the stage with escorts Ciara Cooley (Clay Cooley car dealership family) and Charles Haley (former Dallas Cowboys defensive end). /Photo by Windy Lopez

The Children’s Cancer Fund hosted its 27th Annual Luncheon in the Chantilly Ballroom of the Hilton Anatole on Friday, April 17. The main goal of this heartwarming event was to raise over $450,000 for pediatric cancer research.

“A significant amount of these funds are raised through this annual luncheon,” Luncheon Co-Chair Cara Serber said. “Since 1982 over $7 million has already been collected in hopes to continue to fund research for the patients of Children’s Health Children’s Medical Center patients.”

Dallas Cowboy legends, Troy Aikman and Roger Staubach, serve together as Honorary Event Chairmen every year. The Master and Mistress of Ceremonies were KDFW Fox 4 News anchors Clarice Tinsley and Steve Eager, both of whom kept the energy high and the celebration flowing smoothly.

“I want you to enjoy how much these kids are enjoying this event, that’s why it’s so great to be where you are sitting,” Eager said.

The menu included chilled tomato-chipotle soup and pecan pie, presented by executive banquet chef Jorge E. Carvajal.

“This event is an amazing, inspirational opportunity for the community to come and be a part of something that affects every single one of us,” Elizabeth Lenart, a marketing specialist working with CCF, said. “Everybody has a family member with cancer and you just never know. One thing we try to get across is no matter how big or small your gift is – it makes no difference.

“This is a really fun day for these kids that are in treatment or in the hospital. This is for them to enjoy a little time away from that. We have a party for them. They are here all morning with entertainment, clowns and magicians. We have kids who are new, and kids who have been here for several years and they look forward to it every year. We are happy to put a smile on their faces.”

Twenty-one young cancer patients and pediatric cancer survivors were able to receive an outfit of their choice sponsored by Dillards. Each model was escorted down a long runway by one of a slew of local celebrities and media, which included Dallas Cowboys football players, Aikman and Charles Haley, Ring of Honor inductee, as well as Dallas cheerleaders. Also escorting the youngsters were Miss Texas Teen USA and Miss Texas America.

This year a Children’s Cancer Fund Inspiration Book was designed to include pictures of the children walking down the runway as well as some of their artwork.

Juan Lopez (10) from Irving walked down the runway. Juan was diagnosed with Burkitt’s lymphoma, but he does not let his illness stop him from being a regular kid. He says that he “wants to be a doctor at Children’s Medical Center when he grows up.” His artwork included a typical favorite for young boys to draw: a lime colored car.

Saket Asher,13, an 8th grader who attends Coppell Middle School also participated in the event. Diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia, Saket wants to be a pediatric oncologist when he grows up. His artwork shows his vibrant side with a picture of a sad face pointing to a happy face with the quote “Don’t worry, be happy.”

Another local youngster scheduled to participate in this year’s event was Thomas “Tommy” Allan Gant (17) who lived in Coppell. Sadly, Tommy lost his fight to nasopharyngeal cancer on April 4. Tommy was a sophomore at Coppell High School and his favorite subjects were Spanish, debate and algebra.

“The enthusiasm, support and generosity in the ballroom the day of the fashion show is nothing short of inspiring,” Luncheon Co-Chair Kathleen Strand said. “It’s very humbling to see everyone come together with their time, treasures and talents for the children. This level of commitment enables Children’s Cancer Fund to pursue strategic investments in research, ensuring CCF is truly a movement for a pediatric cancer-free tomorrow.”

The grand finale of the show was a performance by Amber Carrington and Justin Rivers, who are both from NBC’s “The Voice.”