A Little Girl Inspires Others To Walk For A Cure
As Alison Baird battles leukemia, her father steps up to battle childhood cancer.
Just 6 years old, little Alison Baird has already touched the lives of many. Sure, she is cute as a button and smart as a whip, but it’s her fighting spirit that’s made her a hero and inspiration to many.
And now the Avon Lake girl and her family are hoping to inspire even more while bringing awareness to childhood cancer by participating in the 2012 Northeast Ohio CureSearch Walk. The walk helps raise funds to fight pediatric cancer.
On Jan. 10, 2011 Alison was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia, setting her on a multi-year path of treatments and juggling life with cancer.
“I’ll never forget that day,” Jason Baird, a single father of two, said of learning of his daughter’s diagnosis, which followed months of uncertainty.
In October 2010, Alison had complained of leg pain which her father attributed to growing pains.
“We didn’t think much of it at first but things got progressively worse,” Jason said.
“She had pain her lower back and thighs and would wake up in tears.”
In late 2010 Jason was giving his daughter a bath and when she turned around he was shocked at how clearly he could see her spine.
“It seemed like she lost weight overnight,” he said.
Alison was admitted to the Cleveland Clinic the day of her diagnosis and the next day began chemotherapy. Aware of the media scrutiny in Avon Lake concerning childhood cancer cases, Jason said he discussed the issue with Alison’s doctor who said environmental causes were highly unlikely for his daughter’s illness.
Alison is in the maintenance stage of her treatment, which takes at least two years. She has had to take treatment several breaks when her “numbers” dip too low as was the case last month, when Alison returned to the hospital for two weeks.
A city steps up to help
Having a child struggle with leukemia can be devastating but Jason has found he is not alone. The Bairds have found support throughout the city. Jason was particularly concerned about his daughter having to start kindergarten at Eastview Elementary School bald and in treatment.
“The kids were great,” Jason said of how students reacted to lack of hair. He was also concerned about how Alison would be affected by missing school.
“(Eastview principal) Mike Matthews was great,” Jason said. “He said, ‘Relax, we’ll take care of it.’”
Help has come from other places, especially strangers who realize that Alison’s head and facebmask was a sign of chemotherapy treatment.
“We were at the store one day and when we were leaving someone had put a $50 bill on her car seat,” Jason said.
They were also approached in Giant Eagle by Todd Waites, who lost his arm to cancer when he was a child and shared his experiences. Waites, featured in an August 2011 Patch article has gone on to become a successful keyboardist.
Jason said Alison’s sister, 10-year-old Abigail, has also been a tremendous help.
“She’s been amazing,” Jason said."Everyone has been helping out."
Jason’s mother, Mary Jane Dawson, an oncology nurse has proven to be an invaluable resource and provider of support. She added a blog to the CureSearch Walk page, telling her story of Alison’s fight and the need to support funding to combat childhood cancer.
“That is what the goal is. To make her well. Forever and ever,” she wrote. “You can help to make that happen for Alison and all the other children who have been or will be diagnosed with leukemia, lymphoma, sarcoma, brain tumors, and any other type of pediatric cancer by making a donation to Alison’s CureSearch team: Team AliGator.”
Raising funds, giving back
Baird said he is appreciative of the outpouring of support and want to give back by raising awareness for childhood cancer. He has put together a team to participate in this Sept. 29 CureSearch Walk for Children’s Cancer, held in Wade Circle in Cleveland. The Bairds have created a page for Team AliGator on CureSearchWalk.org and have already raised more than $1,900. A Facebook page has also been created featuring dozens of photos, including some that feature Alison's time in the hospital.
Jason said he was motivated to bring more attention to the walk, which he participated in last year.
“What took me aback was how few people there were in the walk last year,” Jason said. “There were maybe 200-300 walkers. I know it’s only the second year.”
He noted that a walk for breast cancer last year had tens of thousands of participants.
“People don’t know much about this,” he added.
He hopes to expand the team, which last year included himself, his mother and children.
Information on the walk as well as how to donate to Team AliGator can be found here.