Community backs 11-year-old Greenwood Square girl fighting leukemia
Karissa Bezanson carries an eight-foot long string of bravery beads wherever she goes.
Each bead represents a medical procedure the 11-year-old has undergone at the IWK Health Centre in Halifax since she was diagnosed with leukemia in early November.
Karissa can easily tell you which procedure every single one of the nearly 200 beads represents. Her favourite is a smiley face she received the day she lost her hair.
The parking lot of the Kingston Lions Hall was packed throughout the day Feb.11 as hundreds of guests came out to show their support for Karissa and her mother, Shannon Hohmann.
The benefit, a silent auction with entertainment and refreshments, was organized by Lorrie Penny in an effort to help Karissa’s mother keep up with the travel and medical costs associated with the treatments while she’s on a leave of absence from work to care for her little girl.
Karissa is undergoing intensive chemotherapy treatments that regularly require several trips to the IWK or Valley Regional Hospital in Kentville each week.
Penny was thrilled so many volunteers and generous donors were eager to pitch in and help make the benefit a success.
“I prayed that this is what would happen but I didn’t want my hopes too high… but it’s so phenomenal,” she said.
“I think I’m in a dream.” Hohmann was moved to tears by the kindness of even complete strangers who stopped to give Karissa some encouraging words at the benefit.
“We’re very overwhelmed and thankful for the turnout. It was way more than we ever expected. She’s a special little girl,” said Hohmann, moments before the Mary’s Islanders Dance Troupe performed a routine especially for Karissa.
“It’s very heartwarming,” Hohmann added. “I’m going to cry – again!”
Karissa’s godmother, Denise Stewart, said the generosity of the community has made it possible
for Karissa’s single mother to focus on her daughter during this difficult time without fretting about money.
“When you see a response like this, there’s no more worry – no more worry at all,” she said, noting that Karissa’s family sees their little warrior as a constant source of inspiration.
“She’s an amazing young lady who kind of makes us all think about how strong she is, and she keeps us going.”
Karissa’s nanny, Leslie Stoddart, is one of her granddaughter’s biggest fans.
“Karissa and Shannon have been super, super strong since day one when Karissa was diagnosed. She’s had a positive outlook the whole time and her mom is her backbone and her sisters – she has two sisters,” said Stoddart.
“Karissa is always smiling. She’s awesome. To see her go through this is very hard but to see her as good as she is positive. Keep going, keep being strong and keep smiling.”
Karissa Bezanson, sitting, has some help holding out the long string of nearly 200 bravery beads that represent every medical procedure she’s undergone at the IWK Health Centre in Halifax since November. Pictured with Karissa is Jennifer Oake, Rachel...