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Steps for Pediatric Cancer event exceeds goal, raises $45,000 for Dana-Farber

  • Emmalynn Bishop, 16 months, has fun during Steps for Pediatric Cancer Saturday at Look Park. She is the daughter of John and Gina Bishop of Agawam.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS

    Emmalynn Bishop, 16 months, has fun during Steps for Pediatric Cancer Saturday at Look Park. She is the daughter of John and Gina Bishop of Agawam.
    JERREY ROBERTS Purchase photo reprints »

  • Ed Cayo, center, of Granby, talks with his brother-in-law Ken Fisher, from left, sister Mary Fisher, and mother Betty Cayo Saturday during Steps for Pediatric Cancer at Look Park.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS

    Ed Cayo, center, of Granby, talks with his brother-in-law Ken Fisher, from left, sister Mary Fisher, and mother Betty Cayo Saturday during Steps for Pediatric Cancer at Look Park.
    JERREY ROBERTS Purchase photo reprints »

  • Jonathan Belle-Isle, 12, of West Springfield, holds Emmalynn Bishop, 16 months, during Steps for Pediatric Cancer Saturday at Look Park. Both are undergoing chemotherapy and Jonathan's father, Jim Belle-Isle, described them as "chemo pals".<br/>JERREY ROBERTS

    Jonathan Belle-Isle, 12, of West Springfield, holds Emmalynn Bishop, 16 months, during Steps for Pediatric Cancer Saturday at Look Park. Both are undergoing chemotherapy and Jonathan's father, Jim Belle-Isle, described them as "chemo pals".
    JERREY ROBERTS Purchase photo reprints »

  • Michelle Cayo, left, of Granby, celebrates with Erin Hebert, of Belchertown, after Cayo drew Hebert's number for $100 in lottery scratch tickets in a raffle that was part of the fundraising during Steps for Pediatric Cancer Saturday at Look Park. <br/>JERREY ROBERTS

    Michelle Cayo, left, of Granby, celebrates with Erin Hebert, of Belchertown, after Cayo drew Hebert's number for $100 in lottery scratch tickets in a raffle that was part of the fundraising during Steps for Pediatric Cancer Saturday at Look Park.
    JERREY ROBERTS Purchase photo reprints »

  • Ed and Michelle Cayo, of Granby, who are the organizers of Steps for Pediatric Cancer, dance during their fundraiser Saturday at Look Park.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS

    Ed and Michelle Cayo, of Granby, who are the organizers of Steps for Pediatric Cancer, dance during their fundraiser Saturday at Look Park.
    JERREY ROBERTS Purchase photo reprints »

  • Ed and Michelle Cayo, of Granby, say hello to Emmalynn Bishop, 16 months, of Agawam, during Steps for Pediatric Cancer Saturday at Look Park. The Cayos organized the fundraiser.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS

    Ed and Michelle Cayo, of Granby, say hello to Emmalynn Bishop, 16 months, of Agawam, during Steps for Pediatric Cancer Saturday at Look Park. The Cayos organized the fundraiser.
    JERREY ROBERTS Purchase photo reprints »

  • Jessica Barrows, of Lowell, dances with her niece, Emmalynn Bishop, 16 months, of Agawam, during Steps for Pediatric Cancer Saturday at Look Park. <br/>JERREY ROBERTS

    Jessica Barrows, of Lowell, dances with her niece, Emmalynn Bishop, 16 months, of Agawam, during Steps for Pediatric Cancer Saturday at Look Park.
    JERREY ROBERTS Purchase photo reprints »

  • Emmalynn Bishop, 16 months, has fun during Steps for Pediatric Cancer Saturday at Look Park. She is the daughter of John and Gina Bishop of Agawam.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS
  • Ed Cayo, center, of Granby, talks with his brother-in-law Ken Fisher, from left, sister Mary Fisher, and mother Betty Cayo Saturday during Steps for Pediatric Cancer at Look Park.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS
  • Jonathan Belle-Isle, 12, of West Springfield, holds Emmalynn Bishop, 16 months, during Steps for Pediatric Cancer Saturday at Look Park. Both are undergoing chemotherapy and Jonathan's father, Jim Belle-Isle, described them as "chemo pals".<br/>JERREY ROBERTS
  • Michelle Cayo, left, of Granby, celebrates with Erin Hebert, of Belchertown, after Cayo drew Hebert's number for $100 in lottery scratch tickets in a raffle that was part of the fundraising during Steps for Pediatric Cancer Saturday at Look Park. <br/>JERREY ROBERTS
  • Ed and Michelle Cayo, of Granby, who are the organizers of Steps for Pediatric Cancer, dance during their fundraiser Saturday at Look Park.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS
  • Ed and Michelle Cayo, of Granby, say hello to Emmalynn Bishop, 16 months, of Agawam, during Steps for Pediatric Cancer Saturday at Look Park. The Cayos organized the fundraiser.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS
  • Jessica Barrows, of Lowell, dances with her niece, Emmalynn Bishop, 16 months, of Agawam, during Steps for Pediatric Cancer Saturday at Look Park. <br/>JERREY ROBERTS

The Steps for Pediatric Cancer walk was organized by Edward and Michelle Cayo of Granby, whose only child, 12-year-old Nick, died last year from an aggressive form of brain cancer.

“By January I knew that I had to do something. It is such a horrid disease, and it is terrible when you have to watch someone go through it,” Michelle Cayo said. “So we started organizing to make this happen.”

The Cayos and 21 volunteers who helped to organize the event were hoping to enlist 400 participants and raise $20,000. After hearing that more than 500 people showed up, and $45,000 had been raised, the success brought Michelle to tears.

“This is just amazing. It’s been a long haul and a lot of work but, it was worth every minute,” she said.

Michelle Cayo said more than 60 sponsors made monetary donations or provided gifts for a raffle held at the Look Park pavilion after the walk.

The proceeds of the event will go to the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston.

While cancer is associated with anguish and heartache, the event was anything but somber.

At 10 a.m., the 500-plus walkers enthusiastically began making their way around the park. Some were clad in the Steps for Pediatric Cancer Walk T-shirts, others with shirts memorializing friends or loved ones.

“We are team Diego!” Colleen Butler of Thorndike called out, while carrying a large poster board with photos of her nephew, 6-year-old Diego Hernandez, who has kidney cancer. “We brought 16 people here today to help raise money to beat cancer,” she said.

Another group came from Granby Junior and Senior High School, the school Nick Cayo would have attended.

“Nothing that we could teach in the classroom replaces active participation like this,” Spanish teacher Cindy Kwajewski said. Kwajewski represented the school’s organization HOPE, (Helping Out People Everywhere).

“This shows them how they can give back to the community, how to help others and it also gives them something to take pride in and feel good about,” she said of students.

The HOPE team walks for several events during the year and typically draws 60 participants. “We didn’t have too much time to prepare so we only have 10 people here. But we plan to come next year with a much larger group,” Kwajewski said.

Several attractions were available for children and families, including a balloon artist, face-painting and music, as well as a few costumed characters, including Snoopy, Spider-Man, and Buck the dog — the mascot of Country Bank, one of the event’s main sponsors.

About the children

Mixed in with parents, friends and well-wishers Saturday were several children being treated for a variety of cancers.

Jon Belle-Isle, 12, of West Springfield, sat in a chair at the pavillion, resting after walking the full loop of the park. “I really enjoyed that. I haven’t been able to walk that far since last year,” said the youngster, who was diagnosed with Ewing Sarcoma, a rare disease in which cancer cells are found in the bone or in soft tissue.

After he complained of back pain last winter, Jon’s parents took him to a doctor who found a large tumor in his back.

“They said it was the size of three grapefruits!” said Jon’s father, Jim Belle-Isle.

After undergoing treatment with radiation and chemotherapy, their son lost an alarming amount of weight. “He started out at 102 pounds and lost 30 pounds during treatment. He is slowly regaining his weight now,” the boy’s father said.

One of the youngest cancer survivors at the event was 16-month-old Emmalynn Bishop, who toddled through the crowd in a long blue T-shirt, a baby bottle in one hand while clinging to her father’s hand with the other.

When she was nine months old, Emmalynn was diagnosed with Hepatoblastoma, the most common form of liver cancer in children, which typically affects those under 3 years old.

Emmalynn had a liver transplant at Boston Children’s Hospital, followed by several rounds of chemotherapy.

“She is a real trooper. She just acts like a typical toddler,” her mother, Gina Bishop, said with a smile.

While Emma Lynn was able to face a transplant, chemotherapy and a hefty amount of daily medications, the one thing she couldn’t bear was a visit from the Spider-man character, whose appearance sent her into tears and reaching for her mother for comfort.

“It is events like this that show the real face of cancer and what we can do to fight it,” said participant Linda Newcomb of Keene, N.H. “The children and families that face down this disease, while dealing with the costs of treatment, travel and emotional heartache, they are heroes in my book.”

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