FORT MILL TOWNSHIP — During the month of September, National Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, Mrs. South Carolina Strawberry Festival Queen Dana Boutwell is on a mission to raise awareness – and money – for pediatric cancer research.
Tricia Witherspoon, who recently met Boutwell, knows exactly how important the cause is. Witherspoon’s daughter, Jenna, died from a brain tumor in 2006, at age 12. Jenna was diagnosed in 2004. After fighting the tumor with surgery, radiation and chemotherapy, the cancer returned in early 2006. The tumor’s placement made treatment difficult.
“There were no options, really,” Witherspoon said.
Jenna would have turned 19 years old on Aug. 2 and would be a junior in college now, her mother said.
The back-to-school season is one of the times when Jenna is most on her mind. She thinks about all of the things Jenna would be doing. What college might she have attended and which major Jenna would have chosen.
Raising awareness and money for pediatric cancer research is critical to helping children like Jenna and preventing other parents from going through the same grief, Witherspoon said.
“Awareness generates the funds. They need the funds for the research, so that they have options and research and cures,” she said.
The plan to bring a greater awareness of pediatric cancer to Fort Mill and Tega Cay was Boutwell’s pageant platform. She had the platform in mind from the moment she decided to enter the pageant, which emphasizes the “cause before the crown” motto.
Watching a friend’s child undergo treatment for leukemia showed Boutwell the importance of raising awareness and funds. Less than 48 hours after Boutwell was crowned, she had set up her first Cookies for Kids’ Cancer booth at The Peach Stand, selling cookies in exchange for donations to the nonprofit group that supports pediatric cancer research.
From there, she began her plans for National Childhood Cancer Awareness Month.
Gold ribbons will line the Main Street in Fort Mill, courtesy of Buy the Bunch. The ribbons will also line Tega Cay Drive, thanks to a purchase by the City of Tega Cay. Boutwell is also selling tickets to the Sept. 2 Charlotte Knights game for $13, with $3 of the ticket price going to Cookies for Kids’ Cancer. To purchase tickets, email Boutwell at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tickets must be purchased through Boutwell to for the donation to apply.
The month’s biggest fundraiser is 30 Days for a Cure: each day for the month of September spotlights a business that has agreed to make a donation to Cookies for Kids’ Cancer. Boutwell encourages residents to support the Cookie of the Day businesses that have offered donations or a portion of the day’s proceeds toward the nonprofit organization.
It has to be a community effort to raise awareness and funds, she said, and to support the families of the children battling the disease.
“The people in the situation of their child battling cancer don’t have time to raise awareness of funds. They need someone to take that on for them,” Boutwell said.