Paying it Forward

Kara Shea
You are never too young to learn generosity
Issue Date: 
November, 2018
Article Body: 

Paying it forward is the notion that one can respond to a person’s kindness, by being kind to someone else. A simple concept in theory, but one with exponential power and possibility; and 8th grade student Caeleigh Brown can attest to this more than most.
As a three sport athlete in Norwood, Caeleigh is used to rigorous training and activity. So in 2016, her father suggested she try the New England Kids Triathlon, as it would combine her love of swimming, with running and biking. Overall, it would be a great physical challenge for her, and he was correct. Caeleigh enjoyed the Triathlon so much, that she planned to do it again the following year.
Plans changed however, when Caeleigh was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer called Acute Promyeloid Leukemia in January of 2017.
“It came as a huge surprise to everyone, and it happened fast” Tracey, her mother noted. “One minute Caeleigh was a regular kid, a student athlete in the prime of swim season; and the next, she was a child diagnosed with a life threatening disease.”
For 10 months, Caeleigh received chemotherapy as part of her treatment. Around 4-5 hours every single day were spent within the walls of The Jimmy Fund Clinic, battling her own body. But with the help of those around her, she never lost her spirit.
“I would try and focus on the bright side,” Caeleigh recalled. “The Jimmy Fund is a happy place and there are so many people there that want to make you smile. The air is always filled with an abundance of love and encouragement. “
To add to this encouragement, Caeleigh had her best friend Livvy Bedard right by her side during treatment. The two were inseparable before the diagnosis, but as the times got tough, this was a bond that persevered through it all.
In fact, Livvy and another friend, decided to run the triathlon in tribute to Caeleigh in July, 2017. It was friendship in its truest form- individuals supporting each other.
This selfless act of love inspired Caeleigh. So, when she finally went into remission on October 6th of 2017, her mission was to get back in shape to participate once again in the triathlon. But this time, she wasn’t running for, or by herself.
“Once I found out that I was in remission, I knew that I wanted other children to experience something that makes them smile like I did,” Caeleigh said.
Therefore, the 2018 Triathlon would be for all of the children still receiving treatment at the Jimmy Fund. Those who still spent hours each day undergoing chemo. It would be about something bigger than herself.
Caleigh and a passionate group of nine of her friends and family participated in the Triathlon together, and decided to raise money to honor the The Jimmy Fund. Although this was not a charity race, Caeleigh and company believed in paying it forward so that all of the children still in treatment could experience something joyful during their difficult time.
The team’s original goal was to raise $500-$1000 dollars. But in the end, the girls came together and raised a total of $3,500. A truly commendable sum.
This money was presented to The Jimmy Fund, and is intended for a holiday party for the children. They will see their nurses dressed up in their favorite characters, receive presents, and it will ultimately keep the clinic in good spirits throughout a challenging time of year for families.
Running under the name Team Caeleigh, the girls sported shirts that read “Together Everyone Achieves More.” A sentiment that carried through the day as each girl not only participated in the race, but finished it.
“I remember as one would cross the finish line, they would wait for the next orange shirt to come across as well, cheering the entire time,” Caeleigh recalled.
Currently, with the race finished and the money donated, Team Caeleigh is adamant on continuing to pay it forward. The girls have one last year to participate in the kid’s triathlon, and the goal is to expand their team and raise even more money for a worthy cause. With this sort of mindset, the possibilities are endless.
For those so young, this team has come to understand a general truth about life throughout this process. You don’t always get to choose what happens to you, but you can choose how you react to it. For Caeleigh and those around her, this means taking any chance to help and support others, and to always pay it forward.
*Caeleigh now aspires to become a Pediatric Oncology Nurse at The Jimmy Fund.