September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, and a 13-year-old Newcastle resident halfway through treatment for a brain tumor hopes to raise awareness in the community.
Alice Skiff, along with her friends and classmates at Great Salt Bay Community School in Damariscotta, met Monday, Aug. 28 to paint rocks with inspiring words for Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. They will place the rocks in the Twin Villages and the surrounding area and encourage those who find them to share photos of them on social media.
In October 2016, doctors discovered a fast-growing tumor, known as a medulloblastoma, approximately the size of a large walnut, under Alice’s cerebellum. Located in the lower, rear portion of the brain, the cerebellum plays an important role in posture, balance, and coordination.
Alice, who was 12 at the time, underwent successful brain surgery at the Barbara Bush Children’s Hospital in Portland at the end of October. The entire tumor was removed. She underwent three weeks of radiation treatment and is now halfway through an intensive chemotherapy cycle, according to her mother, Linda Skiff.
Since Alice’s diagnosis, the family has received immeasurable support from the community, and they wanted to raise awareness of pediatric cancer. According to the American Childhood Cancer Organization, 15,780 children under the age of 21 are diagnosed with cancer in the U.S. every year.
Realizing September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, they decided to paint rocks for display in the area, Linda said. The afternoon of Monday, Aug. 28, Alice, her classmates and friends, and their parents met at the picnic benches near the GSB playground to paint rocks of various shapes and sizes. Some wrote inspirational words like “hope” and “fight cancer” while others painted hearts and suns.
Most of the participants used the color gold, as the gold ribbon is the international symbol for awareness of all forms of cancer affecting children and adolescents. According to the American Childhood Cancer Organization, gold was chosen as the color for childhood cancer awareness because it is a precious metal and “is therefore the perfect color to reflect the most precious thing in our lives – our children.”
The rocks painted Aug. 28 will soon be hidden throughout Damariscotta, Newcastle, and some of the surrounding towns and schools, Linda said.
If someone locates a rock, they are encouraged to take a photo and share the photograph on any social media platform with the hashtag #LCMEGoGold in the caption. Go Gold is the motto of the American Childhood Cancer Organization.
“We wanted to do something like this to bring awareness to pediatric cancer for a while, and we figured with school right around the corner, this would be a fun thing for everyone to do together before heading back,” Linda said.
Alice started eighth grade at GSB on Wednesday, Aug. 30.