As Sarah Hamby braves her fifth battle with cancer in less than 10 years, a new campaign aims to keep her spirits high as she gets ready to celebrate her 12th birthday.
The Beeton, Ont., girl was first diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) in 2012 when she was just three years old.
The following years saw her undergo a number of treatments including chemotherapy, a bone marrow transplant, CAR-T cell therapy and a stem cell transplant. Sarah also saw four relapses of ALL, with the latest arriving on Oct. 29.
Leila Paugh, a woman who lives in Niagara Falls, has been best friends with Sarah’s mother Gillian Hamby for more than 20 years.
Paugh learned of Sarah’s latest relapse in a email group that Gillian maintains to keep friends and family updated on the young girl’s journey.
“She said, you know, her birthday’s coming. If anybody wants to help me cheer her up, send a card,” Paugh said.
From there, Paugh shared the idea privately on Facebook with friends and her church group.
Once Paugh made the post public, it got shared widely and even garnered attention from Norfolk County OPP, with Const. Ed Sanchuk sharing it on Twitter via the account for West Region OPP.
“As a father, I get choked up thinking about that little girl,” Sanchuk told Global News.
Paugh’s idea has now transformed into the Birthday Bonanza for Sarah, a campaign that’s picked up steam since its launch in early November.
“It’s been active for a couple weeks and it was pretty awesome (on Monday), the minister at my church called and was like, ‘Hey, you need a bigger box’,” Paugh said.
While the goal of the campaign was to gather cards for Sarah’s 12th birthday, Paugh says an outpouring of support has seen folks offer up other items such as toys.
“Another friends of ours, Valerie Leko, has organized a GoFundMe campaign, so that’s just recently started,” said Paugh, adding that she’s beyond grateful for the warm reception.
“Just everybody’s prayers, thoughts and well wishes. She’s so young she needs so much encouragement… it’s just amazing.”
There are a number of ways folks can send cards for Sarah’s birthday.
In Niagara Falls, Paugh is collecting cards by way of Stamford Presbyterian Church where cards can be addressed to 3121 St. Paul Avenue, Niagara Falls, Ontario, L2J 2L8.
Norfolk County OPP have also sent up an address to collect cards at 548 Queensway West, Simcoe, Ontario, N3Y 4T2.
Those looking to mark their calendars should know that Sarah will celebrate her 12th birthday on Dec. 5.