A Tale of Two Mothers and Pediatric Cancer
Haddonfield commissioners mark Pediatric Cancer Awareness Month.
They could be found from the middle school to the high school and even at Penn State, where a student from Haddonfield got his baseball team to lace them up.
The effort was fueled by a drive to raise awareness about two borough kids who had just been diagnosed with cancer.
Borough commissioners took time to honor the effort this week with a citation proclaiming September as Pediatric Cancer Awareness month to mark a national commemoration.
The citation was presented to two mothers with very different stories about their child's battle with cancer.
Pam Garstkiewicz and Beth Stefanacci held hands as the citation was presented. They say they are forever bonded by the sobering ordeal of having a child with cancer.
"This time last year we were going back to school, and in a heartbeat everything changes," Garstkiewicz said. "It changes for that moment but it also changes for the future. We're trying to reach out and make it better for the next person."
Stefanacci, of Merchantville, started Go4theGoal, a foundation to help families cope with and raise awareness about pediatric cancer. She started the drive after her son, Richard, died in 2007, on the last day of ninth grade at Camden Catholic High School.
The prognosis for Pam and her son Jason Garstkiewicz is better. He's back at the middle school and in recovery from months of treatment. His lower, right leg was amputated because of a tumor, but everyone is upbeat now, Pam said.
Another borough child, Colin Hough, is still undergoing treatment, but Garstkiewicz and Stefanacci said they are hopeful of a successful outcome there, as well.
Go4theGoal led the shoelace campaign that raised nearly $30,000 for the Garstkiewicz and Hough families. Stefanacci said her effort provides a next step for families coping with cancer.
"Everyone handles it very differently," she said. "There are people who have lost a child and done things similar to what we did. There are other families who are devastated so much that it disrupts their life entirely. Pam got a tremendous amount of support within the community here and I think that helps you do what you got to do and keep your eye on the goal."