Seven-year-old Ella Watters, a first grader at Windsor Hill Elementary, has undergone 14 rounds of chemotherapy and 28 rounds of radiation in her battle against Ewing's sarcoma and is now on the mend.
To help with her recovery efforts, eight Rhode Island State Troopers ran in this year's 122nd Boston Marathon as a fundraiser, and last Thursday presented Ella’s family, along with two others, with a check for $5,000.
“This one hits close to home. Ella is actually part of the Rhode Island State Police family. Her uncle works for the Rhode Island State Police, and Ella, this was an honor to run this marathon for you,” said Trooper Amy Jackman during the presentation. “We’re honored to know that what we did could help your family.”
The RISP troopers ran for the Cops for Kids with Cancer organization, which is a federally recognized 501(c)3 organization that raises fund for the families of children with cancer. Since their inception in 2002, the organization has raised more than $2.5 million for families around New England.
“These troopers raised nearly $16,000 for the Cops for Kids with Cancer. Over the past few years, the Rhode Island State Police has raised approximately $65,000 for this charity,” said Colonel Ann Claire Assumpico, Superintendent of the Rhode Island State Police. “There are three families today receiving checks today in the amount of $5,000 each. Their children are eight months, seven years old, and eleven years old.”
The funds raised by the Cops for Kids with Cancer program has, for example, saved a family from eviction, helped pay down overwhelming bills, and paid to repair a family’s only vehicle used to travel back and forth to the hospital.
“I think we sometimes forget about the parents, and God bless you, because parents make the sacrifice. They want to take care of their children and they have to do many things, from trying to get rides to the hospital, trying to be with their children in the hospital, taking time out of work, and just trying to be there for their child,” said Col. Assumpico. “The Rhode Island State Police have been honored in the past to do this. It is a humble group of people, and they do it because they want to help the families out in all the communities of Rhode Island.”
Detective Lieutenant William Coulter of the Massachusetts State Police and chairman of Cops for Kids with Cancer, himself a Stage IV neck cancer survivor, said, “We’re here today to help out three families who have problems with health and finances. We don’t build buildings, we don’t find a cure, we actually try to go directly right to the source and help the families.”
Coulter said his organization is limited to helping only eight families per month. Those families are specially selected, usually by social workers in hospitals with the assistance of police officials.
Funds are raised through the Boston Marathon, golf charities and other fundraising activities. This year’s 26.2 miles of the Boston Marathon, however, “was particularly grueling for the RISP runners.
“It only rained from the beginning to the end of the race, it was torrential, it was the worst running ever of the Boston Marathon,” said Coulter of the troopers’ efforts. “They ran for about four hours in the pouring rain, but if you ask them, it was the best day ever.”
For Ella and her parents, Mike and Tracy, last Thursday was a moment to pause and celebrate, and reflect on how far they all have come.
“She’s doing great right now. She finished her treatment at the end of September, and her last scans all came back negative, so she’s back in school now full time,” said Mike. “We’re so grateful for what they do, the Cops for Kids with Cancer and the Rhode Island State Police, the support that we’ve gotten since we’ve found out is overwhelming. Every bit helps, and we’re so appreciative.”
According to the Mayo Clinic, Ewing’s sarcoma is a rare type of cancer that occurs in bones or in the soft tissue around the bones. This cancer most often begins in the long bones of the pelvis, legs or arms, but it can occur in any bone. Major advancements in the treatment of Ewing’s sarcoma have significantly improved outcomes.
“We’re very lucky, we have a huge support system and this is an extended part of it. Especially because she’s been through so much, it’s been a tough nine months,” said Tracy. “She’s had a long haul, but she’s still smiling. There were days when we didn’t think we’d make it through, but she’s always so happy and that’s helped a lot.”
This year, Sergeant Ronald Longolucco, Trooper Lisa Hanley, Trooper Jared Andrews, Trooper Kathryn Hirsch Hursh, Trooper Robert Fox, Trooper Amy Jackman, Trooper Robert Bentsen and Trooper Andrew Phillips participated in the Boston Marathon.
The families of 8-month-old Sean Chamberlain, who was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia, and Yesla Custodia, an 11-year-old who is currently battling a brain tumor, were also recipients of the funds raised.
Along with the check, each child received a blanket, a Boston Marathon t-shirt, a State Police t-shirt, a pink State Police patch, a hat, bumper sticker, and a teddy bear.
Ella said that she was feeling good, was happy to be back in school, and that she would name her new bear “Teddy.”
ELLA 2 CELEBRATING GRADUATION:
Ella Watters celebrated her kindergarten graduation in June. She’s recently finished her cancer treatments and is now back to school full time. ELLA 3 RACE PARTICIPANTS:
Pictured are Sergeant Ronald Longolucco, Trooper Lisa Hanley, Trooper Jared Andrews, Trooper Kathryn Hirsch Hursh, Trooper Robert Fox, and Trooper Amy Jackman, who ran in this year’s Boston Marathon and assisted three families through their efforts. Not pictured, but participants in the race, are Trooper Robert Bentsen, and Trooper Andrew Phillips. ELLA 4: TINY TEDDY:
Detective Lieutenant William Coulter of the Massachusetts State Police presented Ella with a special teddy bear. (Sun Rise photos by Tim Forsberg)