‘Sunday Funday’ brings awareness to childhood cancer

By: 
Kim Brooks
Express Editor

     September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. The Austin Strong Foundation (ASF), created in honor and memory of Austin Smith who passed away in May 2016 at the age of 6 from DIPG, unfortunately had to cancel several of its fundraisers earlier this year due to COVID-19. However, they still wanted to honor Austin…

     “A Sunday Funday in the Park” brings outdoor live music to the Monticello community, noting that despite everything else being cancelled, cancer is not cancelled.

     “2020 has been full of cancelled events. Well, unfortunately cancer is never cancelled, it continues on, and these kids and their families need us to keep fighting for them! So we have decided to do something fun and host a Sunday Funday in the Park!” reads the Facebook event page.

     Austin’s mom, Mikinzie Smith, said the Foundation committee wanted to have an event to continue to bring awareness to childhood cancer, and still allow people to social distance during this time with COVID-19.

     “There will be plenty of space to social distance and we will have food and drinks for supports to purchase throughout the day as they enjoy music by Crosscut and Adam Keith,” offered Smith.

     Like so many other non-profit organizations, the Austin Strong Foundation has been unable to host in-person fundraisers this year. It started with the cancelation of their annual Gala in April, and now Austin’s Halloween Party in October.

     “Cancelling this event (the Halloween party) is by far the toughest one to cancel,” said Smith. Austin’s birthday is a few days before Halloween and it was his favorite holiday. “It isn’t a big fundraiser for us, but this event is in honor of Austin’s birthday and meant for the children of the community, so cancelling this one feels like a big loss.”

     The only way the Austin Strong Foundation has continued to raise money in the fight against childhood cancer is through online donations.

     “Thank goodness we have had that option,” noted Smith.

     She said the Foundation was able to come to terms with cancelling one fundraiser, but they soon realized the pandemic was not going to end any time soon. They needed to find a way to adjust in terms of fundraising during unprecedented times if the Foundation was going to succeed.

     “When the pandemic hit, we were all hopeful that it would pass quickly,” Smith said. “The harsh reality to this is that no matter what is going on around us in this crazy world, cancer is not cancelled. It still goes on every day, only now families are having to fight cancer during a pandemic, and so we must keep doing out part for them.”

     Despite cancellations during uncertain times, the ASF was still able to do some great things in 2020.

     “Thanks to our loyal supporters, the Foundation was able to give $25,000 directly to pediatric brain tumor research throughout the DIPG Collaborative,” offered Smith. They also donated $10,000 to the University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital pediatric oncology floor.

     “The Foundation has some big goals and dreams, but the biggest dream is that one day a parent won’t have to hear the words that their child has cancer and there is no sure,” continued Smith, pulling from her family’s own experiences.

     Sunday Funday in the Park will take place this Sunday, Sept. 27 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Jones County Fairgrounds (near the beer tent pavilion). Sally Deeb with Sally’s on Broadway in Springville is catering the event. There will also be non-alcoholic and alcoholic beverages for purchase. Those in attendance can also purchase tickets for a few raffle items.

     “Everyone is welcome to bring their lawn chairs or a blanket and enjoy the day’s entertainment,” urged Smith.

     This event is free to attend. Smith said they wanted to offer something in the community to bring people together for a great cause while being mindful of social distancing.

     “Any donations are appreciated as always. We are blessed with some amazing supporters.”

     Smith credits the “Sunday Funday in the Park” idea to two of the ASF board members: Erin Cox and Jennifer Ballou.

     “When they brought the idea to me, I was in love with it, as was the rest of our board,” praised Smith. “We have a great group of volunteers that help out with our events.”

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