Kirkland girl makes bracelets to raise money for cancer research
By CARRIE RODRIGUEZ
Kirkland Reporter Editor
July 11, 2012 · Updated 5:00 PM
Nine-year-old Aja Williams had a different agenda than simply watching TV or hanging out with her friends on the weekends like most kids her own age would do.
Instead, she recently made about 200 bracelets that she sold for $1 apiece to raise money for cancer research.
And she had perhaps the greatest motivation to do so - her father, Leslie. He was diagnosed with a rare blood disease, amyloidosis, last October.
“I was really freaked out and scared,” said Aja of when she found out her father was sick. Aja, of Kirkland, is a fifth grader at Cedar Park Christian School in Bothell.
Leslie went in for a routine doctor check-up and a urinalysis found he had too much protein. After a kidney biopsy and several bone marrow biopsies, doctors diagnosed Leslie with the rare blood disease.
“It’s called amyloidosis and the blood cells basically clone themselves and then they attach to live organs and they shut down the live organs,” he explained. “They treat it as cancer and it’s rare. I’m one of the rare, few lucky ones.”
Leslie said at the time of his diagnosis his biggest concern was raising his daughter and 6-year-old son.
“That was absolutely my first concern that I needed to beat this thing because I needed to be there for them,” he said.
Leslie received a stem cell transplant last December at Seattle Cancer Care Alliance – the treatment arm of Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.
Because he didn’t have any symptoms, he said he went into Seattle Cancer Care Alliance feeling great and came out “feeling like I had just been through it … I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy. It totally destroys your GI tract from one end to the other completely.”
He said the chemotherapy left him without an immune system, so he couldn’t be around his children for several months.
“We stayed with my mom when he was gone,” said Aja. “We got to visit him a few times at his house. It was really hard.”
Following his treatment, Leslie had a lot of unused equipment and supplies leftover that he gave back to Seattle Cancer Care Alliance.
“Part of the conversation was, what happens when people don’t have money, and that was kind of the impetus behind this,” said Leslie. “Aja said she wanted to help people who didn’t have money who needed to go through treatment.”
Her first goal when she began making bracelets was to raise $50. But she ended up raising $200 for the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle.
“This is one kind,” said Aja, as she pulled up her dad’s sleeve to show an orange and yellow knotted bracelet she made for him out of string. “I also have ones that are braided and I did have a sample of knots going diagonal and one called swirl.”
For larger wrists like her father’s, it took her nearly one week to make a bracelet. Other bracelets only took her five minutes to make. She made the bracelets on the weekends, after school and even during lunch sometimes at school.
Aja said that some people ordered bracelets and she would give them a delivery date; others bought bracelets that she had already pre-made.
“They were like, oh, cool I’ll buy one, after I told them what I was doing,” said Aja of how people reacted. “My best friend, Brianna was like the one who bought a lot of them.”
Leslie recently found out he is cancer-free.
“I’m in the clear now,” he said. “The only thing I’ve got is a little bit of back problems from some nerve damage that was caused from the biopsies. A little bit of pain, but I can live with that.”
Aja says she is “really happy” that her father is doing well. She recently toured the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center to donate the money she raised. She said she hopes it will help the facility to “buy medicine and get the right stuff for cancer patients who can’t afford treatment. I think it’s really special that they get to do that.”
What does Leslie think about what his daughter did?
“I’m massively proud of her,” he said. “She has demonstrated an ability to think about others at a very young age and that will serve her well as she grows older.”
Contact Kirkland Reporter Editor Carrie Rodriguez at firstname.lastname@example.org or 1-425-822-9166 (ext 5050).