Kaela Teho, a second-grader at Iolani School, is counting down the days to Oct. 31. But she isn’t interested in the sweets and frights that come along every Halloween night. Instead, this 8-year-old hopes Hawaii’s generous spirits will help her reach her goal of raising $1,000 in donations for the non-profit Hawaii Children’s Cancer Foundation (HCCF).
“She loves feeling like she is making a difference,” says Kendis Teho, Kaela’s mother and HCCF volunteer. “I am on the board for HCCF, so Kaela is all the more aware of all the good things HCCF does for families like her own.”
Kaela is currently in remission from acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), a type of blood cancer. The most common form of pediatric cancers, ALL accounts for 35 percent of all cancers in children with 7,000 new cases in the United States each year. Kaela’s battle began in January 2005. Her parents at first thought she had a bad case of the flu, but by the following month her pain had worsened. Pediatricians discovered that her liver and spleen were enlarged, and she was immediately referred to various specialists. By April, Kaela was diagnosed with ALL.
Last month marked the completeion of her chemotherapy. “She will get (blood draws) every month to determine whether the cancer is not recurring,” explains Teho, “but Kaela has always had tremendous faith that it will not return.” Kaela also has endless energy. She loves to read, swim, dance, anything on Animal Planet and her sister/partner-in-crime Lily, 4 (pictured above left).
For her birthday in 2006, the Teho family hosted an “eco-party,” where party-goers participated in a beach cleanup and were asked to bring donations to the World Wildlife Fund in lieu of presents. That same year, Kaela decided on her own to raise money for HCCF.
“The Kaimuki and Kahala communities responded very generously,” Mom recalls, “and she collected more than $400!”
In Hawaii, there are between 50 and 60 newly diagnosed cases of children’s cancer each year and 200 keiki undergoing treatment at any given time. But Kaela enthusiastically challenges, “Let’s show everyone that kids can make a difference!”
Trick-or-treaters of all ages are invited to join Kaela in raising money for HCCF. Ninety-three cents of every dollar goes directly to families dealing with children’s cancer in the form of financial or educational support and advocacy. HCCF is not affiliated with any Mainland entity, so all funds stay in Hawaii.
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