Secaucus will hold its first annual Community Ball on Nov. 19 at the Crowne Plaza Hotel to benefit Tomorrows Children’s Fund (TCF), a nonprofit organization founded by parents of children with cancer and blood disorders. The event will include dinner, dancing, entertainment, raffle prizes, and a silent auction.
TCF has helped a number of children from Secaucus, including Ava Rose Krajewski, a 2-year-old resident who is currently being treated for Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia.
“We’ve been talking about [a fundraiser] since the beginning of the year,” said Councilwoman Susan Pirro. She said the mayor and council wanted to have a nonpolitical community ball that would support a worthy cause.
“Without TCF’s [help], I wouldn’t know what we would have done.” – Charles Krajewski
Pirro served as the co-chair for the town’s Relay for Life, which raised hundreds of thousands for the American Cancer Society over the past number of years.
For those like Ava
“The initial shock you feel as a parent is unexplainable,” said Charles Krajewski, 34, the father of 2-year-old Ava Krajewski. Ava was diagnosed with leukemia in August 2010, when she was 10 months old.
He said that at first he and his wife RoseAnn, 37, were unsure of what they were doing up in the pediatric oncology unit of the hospital.
“Tomorrows Children had social workers and child life specialists [arrive] immediately,” he said. “They are able to actually ease your pain just because you know that they are there for you. We met some wonderful people. Without their [help], I wouldn’t know what we would have done.”
Fulfilling a need
Based in Hackensack Medical Center, TCF began in 1982 with a bake sale organized by a group of parents who wanted a support system and a way to provide greater comfort to their children as they underwent treatment. The effort blossomed and grew with the opening of the Don Imus-WFAN Pediatric Center in 1994.
“TCF will do anything to help a family and the child who has cancer or a blood disorder…anything to alleviate the pain and stress,” said Kathy Ambrose, administrative director at TCF.
The nonprofit offers emotional and financial support. When a child is diagnosed, he or she is given the services of a child life specialist, said Ambrose. The specialist is trained to guide children through the experience of treatment and will conduct medical play to show them how chemotherapy is induced with a doll and needle sticks. The doll is a teaching tool and even loses its hair.
Meanwhile, parents meet with a social worker in whom they confide to help get them back on their feet should they have to leave their jobs, said Ambrose.
A new normal
For the Krajewskis, the experience changed their lives. RoseAnn left her job as a group fitness director at a gym. Charles took a short leave of absence from his teaching job at Memorial High School in West New York, where he has been an educator for 10 years. He said the school system was supportive during a time of great uncertainty. Krajewski is also a Secaucus Board of Education member.
Ava has had many hospital stays.
“There is somebody on hand [at the hospital] all the time,” said Krajewski. He referred to the volunteers and nurses who have been by Ava’s side as angels.
The family has a new normal: Rushing to the clinic at a moment’s notice, like two weeks ago when Ava caught an unexpected fever. At other times, especially last year, she was stuck in a hospital room unable to leave for long periods of time.
“I find myself always praying,” said Krajewski. “I stay optimistic and positive all the time….There is a light at the end of the tunnel.”
The family is hopeful and is even expecting a third child in April.
Ava has gotten past her most intense treatments, said Krajewski. She goes to the clinic once a month and will continue her treatment until December 2012.
In addition to emotional support, TCF helped the couple pay for bills during a three-month period, which Krajewski said was a tremendous help. The couple has also had support from friends, family, the town, and the West New York school system, which held a fundraiser for Ava.
Krajewski’s father, who lives with the family, has taken care of the couple’s 4-year-old son C.J. when they’ve had to spend time in the hospital with Ava.
“Everyone has been great in the town…even just people asking how my daughter is doing,” Krajewski said.
The town is also selling hearts for a dollar through local businesses to benefit TCF.
“We know that every dollar donated is used very wisely. Each donation is wonderful,” said Ambrose.
Community Ball tickets are $50. K&S Social and Athletic Club is a co-sponsor. For more information, contact Susan Pirro (201) 362-4435 or Regina Bator (201) 330-2000. To learn more about TCF, visit: http://www.atcfkid.com/
For updates on Ava, visit: http://www.caringbridge.org/visit/avarosekrajewski.
Adriana Rambay Fernández may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.