2007 Sunshine Kids SpokesKids
Each year a young cancer patient is selected to represent kids with cancer everywhere.
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LaToya Simon   LaToya Simon
2007 Sunshine Kids National SpokesKid
 
  "Being a Sunshine Kid has made me so happy," said LaToya Simon, a sophomore at Western High School in Las. Vegas, NV. "The only sad thing is that if I never got sick I would’ve never met any of these nice people."
Diagnosed with Leukemia ALL in 2003, LaToya is an amateur cartoonist and poet, LaToya was a participant of both the New Orleans Mardi Gras and the Texas Hill Country Adventure.

“These trips were the best things to ever happen to me,” she said. “I thought I was gonna be miserable going through all that chemo and stuff but the SSKids made it the best years of my life.

"Still undergoing treatment when she sent on the New Orleans trip, arrangements were made so that LaToya would only have to take a minimum amount of medication while on the trip. Being able to talk to other young people who were dealing with the same issues turned out to be the best medicine of all. She especially liked the fact that she didn’t have to explain her situation repeatedly to her new friends.

“The SSKids already know what I am talking about so it’s great to be around them,” LaToya explained. “That has helped me to talk to more people without being so shy and thinking what they’ll think about me.

” As a SpokesKid, LaToya hopes to spread the mission of the SSK Foundation and what it means to young people with cancer.

“I wasn’t too happy when I got sick,” she said, “but I felt way better once I met the SSKids. When I went on the SSK trip, I met so many new friends from different places. Now I feel that no matter where I go in the U.S.  – I know I’ll always have a friend there.”

In the future, LaToya hopes to overcome her fear of heights by snowboarding on the big slopes and she wants to become a cartoonist and video game designer. She is the daughter of Catrina Rena Phillips and Michael James Simon, Sr. and she has six siblings: Michelle, 14; Quan, 11; Capricia, 9; Monique, 9; Michael, Jr., 7 and Cedric, 6.

LaToya is grateful for the opportunity to represent the SSKids for the next year. “Out of all the Kids you could’ve picked you chose me,” she said, adding, “I guess it kinda shows that just like I’ll never forget any of you, you guys never forgot about me and that means a lot! Thank you from the bottom of my heart."

     
Nick Reyna   Nick Reyna
2007 Sunshine Kids National SpokesKid
 
  A friendship forged on a Sunshine Kids trip made a lasting impression on Nick Reyna of Rocky Hill, CT, and is the reason why he agreed to be one of the SSK SpokesKids for 2007.

It was on a SSK trip to Washington, D.C. that Nick met Matt, who was his roommate on the trip. Matt, who was still undergoing treatments at the time and therefore in a wheelchair, decided that he didn't feel up to participating in one of the activities. Nick stayed behind with him and the two of them spent the day watching movies and hanging out.

“Even though Matt had a sort of rough time, he told me he thought the trip was a lot of fun,” Nick said. “On the last day of the trip as me and Matt were saying our good byes, he told me if he were to die soon he would have been alright because he had a ton of fun on the trip.” Unfortunately, about a week later Nick got word from Matt's family that he had passed away.

“I was extremely sad, but I was glad that at least he had a lot of fun on the trip before he died,” Nick said. “So I want to thank all of the supporters of the SSK on behalf of my friend, Matt.”

“Being a SSK has impacted my life greatly,” Nick explained. “It has changed my life in that being with others who had 'deadly diseases' has shown me that no one is safe from these diseases and that it affects everyone.”

Nick's own cancer battle has resulted in numerous health problems, but it doesn't
hold him back from experiencing all that  life has to offer.

“Being with other people with similar problems to me helped me in remembering how precious life really is, and to cherish and live life to the fullest every moment of every day, because you never know when it will end.” Throughout the next year, Nick hopes to inform people of the opportunities he experienced as a SSKid.

“The SSK Foundation gives Kids like me the opportunity to see things that they never might see, do things they never might do; things they won't be able to do because of a disability or because they passed away. It also gives us the opportunity to share these experiences together as one group.”

A senior at Rocky Hill High School, Nick's hobbies include photography and spending time with his friends. He is the son of Tony and Maria Reyna and he has a sister, Lindsay, 14; and a brother, Andrew, 20.

     
Ryan Caron   Ryan Caron
2007 Sunshine Kids National SpokesKid
 
  “School is my life and music is my passion,” said Ryan Caron, a 16-year-old junior at Cedar Park High School and one of three Sunshine Kids chosen to be SpokesKids for the SSK Foundation for 2007.

“I am excited about prospects of getting out (of school) and going on to college,” Ryan explained. “I live for (school) – academics, sports, theater, choir – everything. If it was not for school I would not be the person I am today."

Diagnosed with osteosarcoma in May 2001, Ryan had his first surgery on his 11th birthday. A participant of two Sunshine Kids trips -- one to Orlando, Fla. in 2004 and the Los Angeles trip in 2006, he takes pride in his association with the SSK Foundation.

“The kids on the trip were phenomenal.” he reported. “I have never been able to sit down with kids ranging in ages from 13 to 17 and be at such an intellectual level and able to all connect in such a way that it didn't matter what we looked like or what we'd been through, we were all on the same level and loved each other for it.”

“I am proud to say I am a SSKid and that we have battled cancer and conquered (it). I want people to see that these trips and these activities really do help,” Ryan said. “These trips can take a kid that has given up – that can’t go any further and give him hope and love.”

Over the next 12 months, Ryan hopes to share his experiences as a SSKid with others – especially those whose contributions make the trips possible.

“There were kids that were on those trips that if they (hadn’t been there) I most likely would not be here today,” Ryan said. “They gave me hope and if nothing else, they gave me someone who understood. I want people to understand that these trips do more than take us away and show us a good time, they can give us life and show us we can still be kids.”

When not in school, Ryan likes playing bass guitar, listening to music and hanging out with friends.”

“Music is my passion,” he explained. “I sing, play a little bit of piano and play bass – my voice and bass are my strong suits,” he added.

Ryan credits his close-knit family – mom, Rachael; dad, Howard; and sisters Michelle and Shannon; as well as his cousin Marceles and his maternal grandmother for getting him through his ordeal. He would like to study aeronautics or music education in college, possibly at Texas State University in San Marcos.

“I want to thank every single person who works, or volunteers for the Sunshine Kids, because some of us would not be here if it was not for you,” he added.

     
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