Young cancer patients bond over upcoming fundraiser

Allison Shapiro

If you see Andrew Ewers in town, don’t be surprised if he doesn’t say hello. At nine years old, he’s shy and quiet, with dreams of helping people someday, maybe becoming a firefighter or a police officer.

Deprived of oxygen at birth, Andrew has dealt with learning disabilities his whole life and attends school as a special education student. Then a year ago, Andrew’s parents were worried after his flu symptoms wouldn’t clear up. They took him to the doctors and got the bad news. Andrew had acute lymphoblastic leukemia.

While technically in remission, he’s required to complete three years of treatment to eradicate any cancerous cells doctors might have missed. Since then, strangers have recognized Andrew from Facebook posts and fundraiser flyers, and come up to share their stories.

“We’ll be out in public and he’s recognized and people will come up and tell him to keep fighting. We hear stories. People approach us and tell us about their survival,” said Andrew’s mother, Katrina Ewers, of Bradley.

“We’ve met a lot of people. A greeter at the Kankakee Walmart stopped us and said she’s a survivor, and so did one of the employees at the pet store. We’ve met so many survivors because of this. Honestly, that gives me a lot of hope.”

One of the people Andrew has met is Austin Scott, a Herscher middle schooler who’s fighting T-cell lymphoma. The two became friends at an event hosted by Southland Championship Wrestling, which often does outreach work with sick kids.

“Austin is very friendly and got him talking and was able to coax Andrew out of his shell,” said Duanita Scott, Austin’s mother. “And Andrew was helping Austin. He’s farther along in his treatment so he could kind of tell him what to expect.”

Within a month of Andrew’s diagnosis, his father lost his job and the family moved to an apartment in Bradley to find a better living situation. Although he only has to go to Chicago for treatments once a month, Andrew is still on a heavy regimens of medicine at home.

As Austin got to know his new friend, he asked Duanita if they could find a way to help. Austin’s own fundraiser in February was a huge success, and he wanted to help someone else. Duanita, a dialysis technician, shared the idea with one of her patients, Jason Rodriguez, who owns the Upper 90 concession stand at Legends Sportsplex in Bourbonnais.

“[Duanita’s] son really had the idea of doing it to give back. They had a fundraiser for him and it went really well. When me and [Legends Managing Director] Mike Spalding heard that, we thought, yeah, we want to give our time and space for a good cause,” Rodriguez. “It feels good to help a family.”

Just as they did for Austin, the community is coming together for Andrew. The fundraiser begins at 10 a.m. Saturday, and features a kids area with a bounce house, clowns and face painting. There will be raffles and football, bags and basketball tournaments throughout the day.

“I’ve been trying to come with a way to thank her and there’s nothing in the world you can do,” Katrina said of Duanita. “Not just thank her for the benefit, but just reaching out and being there. It shows Andrew that it doesn’t have to be blood family that cares enough to do something for you.”

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