But the diagnosis of three-year-old Kaleb Slaney of Placentia has shown his family that no matter how difficult a situation they’re in, the community will always support them.
It has been a tough two months for parents Nicole and Sheldon, who are originally from the Burin Peninsula. When Kaleb was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia on July 8, it was a shock to them both.
For the next three-and-a-half years, the family will travel back and forth to the Janeway Children’s Health and Rehabilitation Centre in St. John’s, about an hour’s drive, for chemotherapy treatments and check-ups.
Cars and motorcycles
On Sunday, Aug. 30, a small car show and motorcade was planned for Kaleb to help raise money to offset medical and travel costs to the Janeway.
But what was expected to attract a few dozen classic cars grew in to a large event with over 400 vehicles participating, including a large group of motorcycles.
“It was the most amazing thing I’ve ever been a part of,” dad Sheldon told The Compass during an interview at the family’s home last week.
“As soon as people found out the cause they jumped on board,” she said.
Locals Michael Gambin, Tammy Gambin, Bernard Penney, Madeline Penney and Pat Power organized the event.
Michael and Tammy’s daughter is between Kaleb and the Slaney’s daughter Karleigh in age. They spend time together socially. Bernard and Madeline are Tammy’s parents, and they also know the Slaneys.
Pat was the only one in the group that didn’t know the family prior to the fundraiser, but he immediately offered to help when he heard about Kaleb’s situation.
It was a big deal for all of them.
“We wanted to do something small and raise a couple thousand dollars,” Michael explained. “We were kind of blown away by the size of it.”
Once Pat signed up, the word began to spread. He is the owner of NAPA Auto Parts in Placentia and orchestrated a $5,000 prize draw.
Car enthusiasts and motorcycle riders visited from all over the province, including one from Corner Brook.
“It was overwhelming, to say the least,” Michael said.
The run began at the Tim Hortons in Whitbourne and went to the Sobeys parking lot in Placentia. Once on the parking lot, there was a dunk tank, ticket raffles and plenty of food and live entertainment. All proceeds will go to the Slaney family.
The total had not been released as of The Compass’ editorial deadline, because the organizing committee wants to surprise the Slaney family with a giant cheque showing the total sometime this week. Michael called it a “substantial” amount.
Supporting their own
For the Slaneys, it wasn’t about the money.
“We didn’t want to be a charity case,” said Nicole, who welcomed the help when the community offered to raise the money.
Nicole and Sheldon are both teachers at St. Anne’s School in Dunville, but the diagnosis means Nicole will have to take leave from her job. She will spend a lot of time traveling to and from St. John’s, and will stay at the Ronald McDonald House during extended stays.
The family just spent six weeks at Ronald McDonald House while Kaleb was getting his first round of treatments.
As teachers in the community, the Slaneys are well known around town. Their situation touched the hearts of many people and they have been waved down by friends, family and strangers who offered their support.
“People have knocked on the window of the car,” Sheldon explained, noting some just to wish them luck and some to give them money.
But it’s not just the financial support that the family appreciates, it’s the emotional support. Sheldon has been contacted by friends who he had not seen in years after they heard of Kaleb’s diagnosis. Some students, parents and grandparents have reached out to the family as well.
“The community really has opened their arms and supported us from the get-go,” Nicole said. “It’s the phone calls, it’s the Facebook messages that keep us going. If we’re not sure we can get over this next hump, all these people sending all these messages of positivity, we know we can get over the obstacle.”
That’s not to say the family doesn’t appreciate the financial assistance.
“People think, how can you help a family if not financially,” Nicole explained. “But we’re going to pay it forward. We’re going to use what’s necessary to get Kaleb (through treatment). But we will definitely be helping others after.”
All for Kaleb
The family has been upfront about Kaleb’s diagnosis to him. They use the term cancer and he knows he’s sick. But the blue-eyed, blond-haired boy has a positive attitude and plenty of energy.
“He’s pretty resilient,” Nicole smiled in the direction of her son, who was playing quietly in a room by himself. But after a few minutes, he cracked out of his shell.
Kaleb decided he wanted to participate in the interview, and climbed up on the chair next to the reporter. His energy was high, and he had plenty to say. He chatted about the car show, dunking his dad in the dunk tank and his favourite part, Herbie.
There were two Volkswagen Beetles, also known as Bugs, at the show. Kaleb is a big Herbie the Love Bug fan, and was given the opportunity to beep the horn in a blue Bug.
“Thank you doesn’t seem really enough,” Nicole said.
But locals don’t expect anything in return, they just wish the best for Kaleb and the family.
“Whatever goes on, we’ll support them. They’re our neighbours, we’ll support them in anything,” Michael said.