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A lemonade stand to celebrate 10 cancer-free years, and raise money
When the Renton Reporter last interviewed Olivia Gonzales, she was terrified her son Antonio’s cancer would return. It had only been three years since he underwent treatment for high-risk neuroblastoma, a rare childhood cancer of the sympathetic nervous system.
It has now been 10 years that her son Antonio Pebworth’s cancer has been in remission and she feels she can finally breathe easier and celebrate, while still raising funds for childhood cancer research.
Gonzales will host “Antonio’s Grand Alex’s Lemonade Stand” from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., June 8, at Cascade Elementary School, 16022 116th Ave. S.E., Renton, in support of childhood cancer research. There will be a bouncy house, dunk tank, clowns, the Seahawks’ Blitz, of course lemonade and a special appearance by Renton Mayor Denis Law.
When asked what he remembers from those days of treatment, Antonio, who was two at the time, can’t remember much.
“The only thing I know is about a tube coming out of my nose,” said the now 12-year-old.
Now, the seventh-grader at Nelsen Middle School plays basketball and is in a flag-football league. He doesn’t have a strict dietary regimen, but his mother keeps him on a healthy diet, one that also helps him gain weight.
“The past few month have been a little of a struggle for us,” said Gonzales. “He was in the hospital for almost two weeks last month and April because he’s had some G.I. (gastrointestinal) problems, which we just found out had to do with the radiation he had when he was younger.”
Antonio underwent 15 months of treatment, including eight rounds of chemotherapy, two surgeries, a stem cell transplant, 12 rounds of radiation and six months of oral treatment.
His mother started her fundraising efforts for research once the doctors said her son was in remission.
“We’re celebrating 10 years,” Gonzales said. “I want to make sure everybody knows it’s very rare for kids to survive it from when he was diagnosed.”
Antonio was given a 25 percent chance to live at that time. Research has brought the chance of survival today for neuroblastoma up to 50 percent, according to Gonzales. Having fundraisers like the lemonade stand and a pancake breakfast throughout the year are important to her for her child and others suffering from the illness.
“I like to promote the fact that childhood cancer research is very underfunded,” she said. “A lot of organizations don’t fund pediatric cancers very well.”
Gonzales has raised more than $30,000 for National Lemonade Days, which supports childhood cancer research. The organization was founded by Alexandra “Alex” Scott, hence “Alex’s Lemonade Stand.” The idea behind the effort being the old adage “when life gives you lemons, make lemonade.”
The organization reports that every year an estimated 263,000 new cases of cancer affect children under the age of 20. Every day, approximately 250 kids around the world die from cancer.
Gonzales has been fundraising with the lemonade stand or pancake breakfast for eight years with the help of friends, family and donations. This year she had the support of Lake Washington Facial Plastics, Party Hoppers of North Bend, Kwasi Bowie and Associates, John L. Scott, Seattle Sounders and Seahawks, Cascade Ice, It Works Body Wraps, Applebees and Serious Customs.
For more information about childhood cancer, visit Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation at www.alexslemonade.org/childhood-cancer-facts. Or to donate directly to “Antonio’s Grand Alex’s Lemonade Stand,” visit http://www.alexslemonade.org/mypage/1113091.