Maddie Tomasko

Bone marrow match proves importance of donors—join registry and save a life

June 16, 2011 // 0 Comments

Maddie Tomasko is a fighter. The 11-year-old Rockford resident was diagnosed with Leukemia back in April. She has already undergone chemotherapy and this week she returns to the hospital, after a brief stay at home, to begin her next step in recovery, a bone marrow transplant. Maddie’s family members were tested to determine if one of them could be a donor, but unfortunately none were a compatible match. Maddie’s doctors then turned to the National Bone Marrow Registry and a match was found! Maddie will get a second chance at life through this donor, but not all are that fortunate. There are many across the country just waiting for a match and a cure. Because of this, Maddie’s mother Cheryl will be hosting a bone marrow drive in her daughter’s honor, with help from MI Blood and Sugar ‘n’ Spice Creamery. The drive will be held this Saturday, June 18, from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. at Sugar ‘n’ Spice Creamery on Belding Rd. in Rockford, next to the Citgo gas station. The process to join the registry consists of simply meeting the general requirements, completing a registration form and health questionnaire, and then a cheek swab (no poke). No appointment is necessary and you must be between 18 and 60 years old to join the registry. Through the help of Cheryl’s friends and the generosity of various local companies, funds have been raised to help offset the cost of this drive, which is typically $25 per donor. Currently, the first 44 people will be able to join for free, but donations from those still willing to give will be accepted, enabling even more to join by “paying it forward.” The goal is to raise enough funds so that no one is deterred due to the cost. One of Cheryl’s friends, Sandra Mellema, whose husband is now a cancer survivor thanks to a bone marrow transplant, said, “The day of my husband’s transplant, the nurses told him it was his new birthday. We celebrate that birthday now just as much as his real birthday. This September my husband will turn 9, and in October, 37. His being with us today is such a blessing and a miracle. My five-year-old said it best while we were […]

Crestwood Elementary School rallies behind student

June 9, 2011 // 0 Comments

by ANA OLVERA As 11-year-old Maddie Tomasko faces a difficult time in her life, her friends, family and community rally behind her in support. Maddie, a fifth-grader at Crestwood Elementary School, was diagnosed on April 7 with acute myeloid leukemia (AML). According to the National Cancer Institute, AML is a type of cancer in which the bone marrow makes a large number of abnormal blood cells. Crestwood sent out a press release to students and parents informing them of Maddie’s diagnosis. Maddie left DeVos Children’s Hospital last week Thursday, May 27, after her 50th day of treatment and has a bone marrow transplant pending within the next few weeks. Her stay at the hospital, however, has been one she has been able to enjoy. “If Maddie could describe her stay in one word, it’d be Rhys, her child life specialist,” Maddie’s mom Cheryl Tomasko said. “He’ll spend time with her and take her to the playroom. He keeps it lighthearted and upbeat.” “Maddie is the typical 11-year-old girl who loves life and her friends… even her brothers sometimes,” reads the press release. “Her true love is Hunter, her Brittney Spaniel.” Maddie also has chickens and loves horses. Students keep in touch with Maddie every day by talking with her via Skype, a video chat program, during their recess. Skype was also used during the students’ graduation from the Drug Abuse Resistance Education (D.A.R.E.) program. “We try to take her wherever we go, and technology gives us that opportunity,” said Andrea Zomberg, a teacher at Crestwood. “[Maddie] feels honored. With her fears of being different, it’s been reassuring to still have that contact with her friends. It kind of shows that things haven’t changed, so to speak,” Cheryl said. Crestwood Elementary held different fundraisers every month to help raise money for Relay for Life, beginning with a movie night in January. T-shirts, bracelets, and Airhead candy were sold throughout the fundraising as well. In May, the school held a month-long “Coins for a Cure” competition between all the classrooms. Andrea Zomberg’s fifth-grade class won the “Coins for a Cure” competition. Zomberg motivated her students to donate coins by giving them a calendar of opportunities, such as wearing a hat, reading a magazine during reading time, or […]

Relay for Life for survivors’ birthdays

May 19, 2011 // 0 Comments

Event is this Friday and Saturday; every Relayer has a story by BETH ALTENA Impressive numbers—$2.46 million raised and last year over 400 cancer survivors honored in the survivor’s lap of Rockford Relay for Life—prove the event is incredibly successful, but misses the point of the real impact of Relay. Carol Delp-Korzeja said the event is about cancer survivors and the money raised is for research to fight cancer for more survivors celebrating more birthdays in the future. “It’s not about the money,” Delp-Korzeja said. “Every person has been touched by cancer, has had someone in their family fight cancer, has known someone who was lost to cancer.” Every relayer has their own story to tell and reason to Relay. Rockford’s Relay for Life is an American Cancer Society fundraiser, a 24-hour event, which kicks off at North Rockford Middle School at 3 p.m. Friday, May 19 with the Rockford Fire Department leading the first lap around the track. Events take place all evening and night, with popular favorites such as the Miss Relay event (the man dressed as Miss Relay receiving the most tips wins) with the theme of Miss Birthday Princess, and the silent Luminaria lap with luminarias dedicated in the memory of a loved one, which takes place as dusk falls over campsites and booths. Cancer survivors are the guests at Relay for Life and Delp-Korzeja hopes even more will take the survivor’s lap—one of the most emotional moments of an already inspiring event. A brunch for survivors begins Saturday, May 20 at 10 a.m. followed by the survivor’s lap at noon. “We don’t really have set goals, but if we did, I would like to see more survivors,” said Delp-Korzeja. “If we have 425 survivors, that would be wonderful.” For Delp-Korzeja teammate Karole Murphy of the Desperate Housewives team, Relay is also about survivors. She calls the event “the most gratifying, tiring and emotional 24 hours of the year. In my profession as an oncology nurse, I am witness to hundreds of people every year that have been told ‘You have cancer,’ “ Murphy described. “Many are present in my care during their battle because they need help in the fight. Some victoriously leave cancer behind, but not forgotten. They are […]