2009 Sunshine Kids SpokesKids
Each year a young cancer patient is selected to represent kids with cancer everywhere.
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Jeannette Sanchez   Jeannette Sanchez
2009 Sunshine Kids National SpokesKid
  Jeannette’s first experience was on the 2009 Mardi Gras Fun-Time Fantasy trip held in New Orleans. “I can honestly say that it was one of if not the best experiences of my life. I really loved getting to see another completely different type of culture and tradition. Not that Louisiana is a different country just that, when you live in New York City and then go to the south, it's a big change. What I really loved about being there as a Sunshine Kid was that I got to spend a lot of time with a whole bunch of kids just like me. The fact that I was a cancer patient didn't hang over our heads the entire time. I had a genuinely great time with some amazing people and survivors just like me. I was able to make some great friends I wouldn't have gotten a chance to get to know otherwise. I won't ever forget it.”

“I think the foundation is a great way to connect young cancer patients all over the country. Let's face it, it's not very likely we get to see a whole bunch of people just like us in one place on an everyday basis. The foundation helps show kids that they're not alone and shows them how to not only survive, but live.”

Jeannette was diagnosed in 2008 with Nasoparhyngeal Carcinoma. After 2 years of hearing loss and extreme headaches the doctors were unable to diagnose her. Then in April 14, 2008 she was diagnosed with a brain tumor. She started intense treatment at Montefiore Medical Center in Bronx, NY. She went through 6 months of chemo and 39 sessions of radiation.

“When I was told I was selected to be a National Spokeskid, I was INCREDIBLY excited. I don't remember what I did the second I was told, but I remember the day was filled with many high pitched squeals coming from me. I have to say it's an honor to represent such an amazing foundation and all that it supports.”

Jeannette was active in sports before her diagnosis but for her 15th birthday she received a guitar and began playing in her hospital bed. Now her passions are reading, playing the guitar and singing. “It's been months since I was announced in the clear, but I'm still in remission. I still have those days where I have to head off to the hospital because I can't eat for nausea or my throat's swollen closed but I'm alive and cancer-free now and I know to appreciate my life.”

Katie Sparks   Katie Sparks
2009 Sunshine Kids National SpokesKid
  Katie’s first experience with the Sunshine Kids was the 2007 Texas Hill Country Adventure.  “It was amazing. We went to Schlitterbahn Water Park, Sea World, tubing down the Rio, riding through the Hill Country on Harley motorcycles and waterskiing at Texas Ski Ranch.  The fun was endless. This was a very important step to start healing emotionally.  During the treatment and recovery time, it can be very isolating.  So this gave me the opportunity to be with kids that understood how I was feeling.  These trips let us just have fun and be normal.”  Katie has also attended the 2008 Florida Fun-N-Sun Celebration and several regional events in California. 

Katie was diagnosed with Pre-B Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia on August 24, 2005 at the age of 13.   She completed her chemo treatment Dec 28, 2007. Unfortunately 8 months later she was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease called Dermatomyositis.  This left her with 10% muscle damage and in severe pain. Katie has the attitude that although she might not be happy with what she was going through she knows that she is not alone.  

“I was at UCLA getting a check up when I was asked to be a National Spokeskid.  I was ecstatic when I received the call. This also allows me the opportunity to give back to the SSK and represent kids with cancer everywhere. To get the word out about how important this program is to us and to thank all the people who are involved in making all these wonderful opportunities available to us.” 

Katie looks forward to many more Sunshine Kids events, Regional and National.  She enjoys motorcycle riding, soccer, traveling, going to the beach, camping, Disneyland and art. Katie would like to continue her education and one day become an Onocolgy nurse.

James Ragan   James Ragan
2009 Sunshine Kids National SpokesKid
  James first experience with a Sunshine Kids trip was on the 2007 baseball spring training trip. "The trip was great, but the best thing about it was being able to spend time with other kids who have cancer. My friends and family are great support, but there is no one to relate to like someone who has been through what you are going through. Now I go on every trip I get the chance to."

By the age of 13, James was an accomplished junior tennis player, and wanted to play at least division I college tennis when he got older. Unfortunately, that was the same year his doctors discovered that some pain and swelling in his left leg was more than just the typical problems of a teen athlete with growing pains. It was a bone cancer called Osteosarcoma - a disease that typically strikes teen or preteen athletes in a growth spurt. James went through 4 months of chemotherapy.

Following that they removed a large portion of his left leg and replaced it with metal implants. At that time, they told him he could not play tennis anymore, but he could play golf if he wanted to. After his surgery in the fall of 2006, he remained on chemotherapy, but was able to begin playing golf in February of 2007, after several months of painful therapy to get motion in his leg. He worked hard enough at it that he made the varsity golf team as a freshman in September of that year. He is also popular in his school and has been class president every year since then. Unfortunately, in October of his freshman year, he had a recurrence when the Osteosarcoma metastasized to his lungs. Since that time, he has had nearly every treatment available but he continues to have recurrences.

"It has been a great honor and opportunity to be a Sunshine Kid's Spokeskid. This organization has done so much for me and so many other kids, that it is nice to be able to help them help others. He has also raised over 200,000 dollars directly for Osteosarcoma research through his Triumph Over Kid Cancer activities (see www.triumphoverkidcancer.org)

The life that kids who have cancer face is really something so devastating that it is beyond understanding until you experience it. Although invited, I skipped several trips because I was not ready to fully deal with having cancer. After my first trip, I became a Sunshine Kid and have been one ever since. Some of the perks that Sunshine Kids are blessed with, other than the trips and meeting and helping each other, are meeting great people like Craig Biggio and the crew from "The Closer". Great bunch of people! Sunshine Kids also give us a brief rest from those trials from time to time - an opportunity to spend time with others going through the same nightmare in a fun, carefree atmosphere. Sunshine Kids has helped give me the strength to keep fighting through the grueling treatments, and I want to do anything I can to be a part of that."
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