Staff Photo: John Bohn Pediatric cancer patient and swimmer Abby Boone, 10, center, receives a kiss from her mother Kim Boone, right. Abby and fellow pediatric cancer patient Elena Tate, left, and pediatric cancer survivor Cole Carter swam as the Morningview Manta Rays Swim Team of Suwanee, hosted an Orange Out fundraiser swim meet for CURE Childhood Cancer on Thursday evening.
SUWANEE -- Every day, 36 children are diagnosed with some form of childhood cancer.
Vastly underfunded and underresearched, the Manta Rays swim team decided to take action for the second year in a row in an "Orange Out" Thursday during a regularly-sceduled Gwinnett Swim League meet in the MorningView subdivision. The money raised during the event went to CURE Childhood Cancer, a childhood cancer group.
"Only three percent of research money goes to childhood cancers," said Paula Collins, who works with CURE.
The subdivision has been hit especially hard with leukemia with three kids all either fighting or having beat it. Those kids -- Abby Boone, Cole Carter and Elena Tate all participated in a honorary lap before the meet.
"It was really cool," Carter said. "I used to be on the swim team and I miss being out there."
Carter, who finished treatment four years ago, said it was hard going to the doctor a lot, but was glad he beat it. Mom, Colleen agreed.
"It's tough to watch your child go through it," she said. "It's emotional to see the kind of support given to these kids during that lap."
For event organizer Kim Boone, her daughter Abby was one of the three kids in the neighborhood to have gone through leukemia.
"The support is just amazing," she said. "Everyone came together and put on a great event. This is something we're all passionate about."
While the final numbers weren't available as of press time, Boone did say the group surpassed last year's total raised ($1,200) even before the meet began.
"Every little bit helps," Boone said. "This event grew by so much this year and we plan on doing it again next year. We want the message to get across. Childhood cancer is grossly underfunded, compared to adult cancers."
Collins notes one of the big reasons childhood cancer only received three percent of the funding is because their numbers aren't as large as adults with cancer, especially breast cancer.
"Each year, there's 13,500 kids diagnosed with cancer," she said. "Compare that to adult-type cancers, those numbers don't compare. But it's still something we have to fight for.
"Right now the survival rate for kids with cancer is 80 percent. It's those other 20 percent that keep us coming into work each day. We know cancer doesn't discriminate. It doesn't care how young you are or what your race is."
It was an all-too-real reality that Boone experienced just an hour before the meet began.
While she still hasn't told her daughter, Boone said one of her good friends during treatment succumbed to leukemia.
"It's definitely hard to hear that," Boone said. "You try to hold it together, but you knew those people.
"Not many people give it a second thought because they don't know a child struck with cancer. Most everyone knows an adult that has had it before, but not many know children with it. This really hits home."