Pla­cen­tia ral­lies around boy with can­cer

Pla­cen­tia fam­ily’s three-year-old be­gins can­cer bat­tle

The Compass - - FRONT PAGE - BY MELISSA JENK­INS Melissa.jenk­ins@tc.tc

It’s al­ways sad news when a young child is di­ag­nosed with can­cer. That’s the sit­u­a­tion fac­ing three-year-old Kaleb Slaney. His fam­ily will be forced to make fre­quent trips to St. John’s in the com­ing years to help the boy bat­tle his ill­ness. For­tu­nately, peo­ple in Pla­cen­tia are sup­port­ing him in a big way.

It’s the word no par­ent wants to hear when their child is sick — can­cer.

But the di­ag­no­sis of three-yearold Kaleb Slaney of Pla­cen­tia has shown his fam­ily that no mat­ter how dif­fi­cult a sit­u­a­tion they’re in, the com­mu­nity will al­ways sup­port them.

It has been a tough two months for par­ents Ni­cole and Sheldon, who are orig­i­nally from the Burin Penin­sula. When Kaleb was di­ag­nosed with Acute Lym­phoblas­tic Leukemia on July 8, it was a shock to them both.

For the next three-and-a-half years, the fam­ily will travel back and forth to the Janeway Chil­dren’s Health and Re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion Cen­tre in St. John’s, about an hour’s drive, for chemo­ther­apy treat­ments and check-ups. Cars and mo­tor­cy­cles On Sun­day, Aug. 30, a small car show and mo­tor­cade was planned for Kaleb to help raise money to off­set med­i­cal and travel costs to the Janeway.

But what was ex­pected to at­tract a few dozen clas­sic cars grew in to a large event with over 400 ve­hi­cles par­tic­i­pat­ing, in­clud­ing a large group of mo­tor­cy­cles.

“It was the most amaz­ing thing I’ve ever been a part of,” dad Sheldon told The Com­pass dur­ing an in­ter­view at the fam­ily’s home last week. Ni­cole agreed. “As soon as peo­ple found out the cause they jumped on board,” she said.

Lo­cals Michael Gam­bin, Tammy Gam­bin, Bernard Pen­ney, Made­line Pen­ney and Pat Power or­ga­nized the event.

Michael and Tammy’s daugh­ter is be­tween Kaleb and the Slaney’s daugh­ter Kar­leigh in age. They spend time to­gether so­cially. Bernard and Made­line are Tammy’s par­ents, and they also know the Slaneys.

Pat was the only one in the group that didn’t know the fam­ily prior to the fundraiser, but he im­me­di­ately of­fered to help when he heard about Kaleb’s sit­u­a­tion. It was a big deal for all of them. “We wanted to do some­thing small and raise a cou­ple thou­sand dol­lars,” Michael ex­plained. “We were kind of blown away by the size of it.”

Once Pat signed up, the word be­gan to spread. He is the owner of NAPA Auto Parts in Pla­cen­tia and or­ches­trated a $5,000 prize draw.

Car en­thu­si­asts and mo­tor­cy­cle riders vis­ited from all over the province, in­clud­ing one from Cor­ner Brook.

“It was over­whelm­ing, to say the least,” Michael said.

The run be­gan at the Tim Hor­tons in Whit­bourne and went to the Sobeys park­ing lot in Pla­cen­tia. Once on the park­ing lot, there was a dunk tank, ticket raf­fles and plenty of food and live en­ter­tain­ment. All pro­ceeds will go to the Slaney fam­ily.

The to­tal had not been re­leased as of The Com­pass’ ed­i­to­rial dead­line, be­cause the or­ga­niz­ing com­mit­tee wants to sur­prise the Slaney fam­ily with a gi­ant cheque show­ing the to­tal some­time this week. Michael called it a “sub­stan­tial” amount.

Sup­port­ing their own

For the Slaneys, it wasn’t about the money.

“We didn’t want to be a char­ity case,” said Ni­cole, who wel­comed the help when the com­mu­nity of­fered to raise the money.

Ni­cole and Sheldon are both teach­ers at St. Anne’s School in Dunville, but the di­ag­no­sis means Ni­cole will have to take leave from her job. She will spend a lot of time trav­el­ing to and from St. John’s, and will stay at the Ron­ald McDon­ald House dur­ing ex­tended stays.

The fam­ily just spent six weeks at Ron­ald McDon­ald House while Kaleb was get­ting his first round of treat­ments.

As teach­ers in the com­mu­nity, the Slaneys are well known around town. Their sit­u­a­tion touched the hearts of many peo­ple and they have been waved down by friends, fam­ily and strangers who of­fered their sup­port.

“Peo­ple have knocked on the win­dow of the car,” Sheldon ex­plained, not­ing some just to wish them luck and some to give them money.

But it’s not just the fi­nan­cial sup­port that the fam­ily ap­pre­ci­ates, it’s the emo­tional sup­port. Sheldon has been con­tacted by friends who he had not seen in years af­ter they heard of Kaleb’s di­ag­no­sis. Some stu­dents, par­ents and grand­par­ents have reached out to the fam­ily as well.

“The com­mu­nity re­ally has opened their arms and sup­ported us from the get-go,” Ni­cole said. “It’s the phone calls, it’s the Face­book mes­sages that keep us go­ing. If we’re not sure we can get over this next hump, all these peo­ple send­ing all these mes­sages of pos­i­tiv­ity, we know we can get over the ob­sta­cle.”

That’s not to say the fam­ily doesn’t ap­pre­ci­ate the fi­nan­cial as­sis­tance.

“Peo­ple think, how can you help a fam­ily if not fi­nan­cially,” Ni­cole ex­plained. “But we’re go­ing to pay it for­ward. We’re go­ing to use what’s nec­es­sary to get Kaleb (through treat­ment). But we will def­i­nitely be help­ing oth­ers af­ter.”

All for Kaleb

The fam­ily has been up­front about Kaleb’s di­ag­no­sis to him. They use the term can­cer and he knows he’s sick. But the blueeyed, blond-haired boy has a pos­i­tive at­ti­tude and plenty of energy.

“He’s pretty re­silient,” Ni­cole smiled in the di­rec­tion of her son, who was play­ing qui­etly in a room by him­self. But af­ter a few min­utes, he cracked out of his shell.

Kaleb de­cided he wanted to par­tic­i­pate in the in­ter­view, and climbed up on the chair next to the re­porter. His energy was high, and he had plenty to say. He chat­ted about the car show, dunk­ing his dad in the dunk tank and his favourite part, Her­bie.

There were two Volk­swa­gen Bee­tles, also known as Bugs, at the show. Kaleb is a big Her­bie the Love Bug fan, and was given the op­por­tu­nity to beep the horn in a blue Bug.

“Thank you doesn’t seem re­ally enough,” Ni­cole said.

But lo­cals don’t ex­pect any­thing in re­turn, they just wish the best for Kaleb and the fam­ily.

“What­ever goes on, we’ll sup­port them. They’re our neigh­bours, we’ll sup­port them in any­thing,” Michael said.

SUB­MIT­TED PHOTO

Kaleb Slaney of Pla­cen­tia has be­gun his treat­ment for a re­cent di­ag­no­sis of Acute Lym­phoblas­tic Leukemia.

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