VACAVILLE — When Jyl Gershen-Lewis took her son Keaton to the doctor five years ago, she was fairly sure the 5-year-old had asthma, as there was a family history of it.
The diagnosis was much more dire — cancer.
“Within four hours from the time we walked into Kaiser (Permanente) in Vallejo he had his first dose of chemotherapy,” Gershen-Lewis said.
Today, Keaton is an active sixth-grader at Vallejo Charter School.
The family was anchored through the battle by the Children’s Cancer Community of Sonoma. Earlier this year, the Solano County residents of the group formed their own group, Supporting Our Cancer Kids. They are one of about 30 nonprofits looking for community support this holiday season.
Gershen-Lewis is vice president of Supporting Our Cancer Kids and has a new role — helping parents of recently diagnosed children.
A student at Keaton’s school was recently diagnosed. Gershen-Lewis connected the youngster’s mother with mothers whose children have had the same type of cancer.
“It’s really important for us to be there for the other families,” Gershen-Lewis said.
Keaton’s journey began after he told his mother he was having chest pain while playing soccer. She and her husband Derek Lewis thought it would be best for him to be tested for asthma.
On the first trip to the doctor, he was given inhalers and sent home. Then, after using the inhaler, he would go limp, but bounce back within a few hours.
He woke up one morning and told hs mother he was tired. She thought it was time to visit the doctor again.
Keaton got a chest X-ray and was soon loaded into an ambulance for a trip to the UC San Francisco Medical Center.
The youngster had a tumor two-thirds the size of his chest in one lung. There was fluid around his heart.
“The doctors told me they were amazed he was still with us,” Gershen-Lewis said.
Keaton underwent two years of treatment.
After it was over, Gershen-Lewis said the group was just as important.
“Part of the support system is seeing the doctor on a regular basis. When you’re off treatment, it’s a scary time, too. The group was our safety net,” she said.
The group was so important that when Derek Lewis lost his job and was given the option to relocate, the family opted to stay because of the bonds they had formed.
Marty Close is the executive director of Support Our Cancer Kids. His wife has had cancer as well.
“I think just about everyone has been touched by cancer,” he said.
The Children’s Cancer Community was started by a 12-year-old girl who had cancer and wanted to help other local children with the disease. Today, she’s a pediatric oncologist nurse in San Diego, Close said.
“I am glad we have created (Support Our Cancer Kids) because there is a real need. But it would be nice if we didn’t have to be here,” Gershen-Lewis said.
Another nonprofit looking for some holiday donations is Kases4Kids, a program of the F.a.S.T. Lions that provides 30 backpacks a month to Child Protective Services. The idea is to give a child being removed from their home some comfort. Instead of their belongings being tossed in a trash bag for transportation, the backpack is used.
Inside the backpack are toiletry items as well as a new stuffed animal.
Mary Lorenz of F.a.S.T. Lions heard about the program and thought it would be beneficial to children in Solano County, she wrote in an email to the newspaper.
That was six years ago.
“We continue in this program because we know how badly it is needed and hope to bring a little self-respect and happiness to the children who find themselves in a very difficult position,” she wrote in the email.
Every spring, the group donates 75 backpacks to the Head Start program. Safequest Solano and The Leaven are also recipients.
The wish lists for Supporting Our Cancer Kids and Kases4Kids are found below along with an alphabetical listing of local nonprofits that would like a little help to get through the holidays.
BCFS Residential Services Division: A health and human service agency offering programs that meet the physical, emotional and spiritual needs of humanity.
Wish list: Volleyballs, soccer balls, footballs, teen-rated video games for the Wii, PlayStation 3, PG and PG-13 movies, socks, boxers, pajama pants, gloves, men’s hygienic items, slippers and books.
Call 422-8802 or visit http:/www.bcfs.net.
Big Brothers Big Sisters: Provides children facing adversity with a positive role model.
Wish list: Christmas tree decorations, cookies, sweets, juice, water, arts and crafts supplies, tablecloth, gift cards to grocery and arts and crafts stores.
Call Cecilia Ramirez-Ruiz at 258-6346 or email her at [email protected].
Children In Need of Hugs: Provides supportive services to homeless teenage mothers and their children in Solano County.
Wish list: Size-8 women’s underwear, size-5 women’s pants, medium shirts, size-6 and -9 black or white women’s tennis shoes, bedding set for full-size bed, assorted hygienic products for newborns, 3- to-6-month baby boy sleepers, onesies, newborn and size-5 diapers, push toys for babies up to 1 year, baby push-walk toys, white bath towel sets, size-8.5 to -9.5 men and women’s tube socks, gift cards to Babies R Us, Toys R Us, Ross and Old Navy.
Call Sharon Blakey at 428-3912 or visit http://www.cinoh.org.
Children’s Nurturing Project: Promotes healthy parent-child relationships and child development through support services and education.
Wish list: Unwrapped toys, clothes, diapers, infant formula, cash and gift cards.
Call L. Ann Taylor at 422-0464 or visit http://www.ChildrensNurturingProject.org.
CMC Investment Urban Development: Provides housing to low-income people and rehabilitates historical buildings.
Wish list: Automobiles (operating and nonoperating).
Call Charles Canvess at 450-6089.
Coats For Kids: Provides warm coats and jackets to needy children in Solano County.
Wish list: Cash donations or new coats for boys and girls in sizes 3-12.
Call Darla R. Stever at 927-4643 or visit http://www.SolanoCountyCoatsForKids.com.
Fairfield Lady Hoopers: Provides recreational opportunities to young girls.
Wish list: Basketballs, jump ropes, basketball bags and basketball shoes.
Call John Souza at 720-9754 or Denise Souza at 290-3173.
F.a.S.T. Lions: Delivers 30 filled backpacks to Child Protective Services every month for Kases4Kids program. Included are toiletries, school supplies and a stuffed animal.
Wish list: Supplies or cash donations.
Grandparents Raising Grandchildren: Offers emotional support as well as resources for grandparents who are raising grandchildren.
Wish list: Grocery and department store gift cards, toys for children ages 5-17.
Call Regina Williams at 438-3032 or email her at [email protected].
Healthy Start Family Resource Center: Helps needy families.
Wish list: Size-2 to -5 diapers and baby wipes.
Call Zolia Perez-Sanchez at 421-3224.
Joshua House: Men’s transitional home
Wish list: Comforters, twin bedding, pots and pans, silverware, body soap, laundry soap, cleaning supplies, broom and dustpan, mop and bucket, twin bed frames, dressers, scrub paddies and sponges, clothes dryer, grass seed and weed killer.
Call Natasha Johnson at 803-2201.
Life Changing Reality Christian Center: Donations for 11th annual Christmas Shoe Box Program.
Wish list: Age-appropriate gifts for children newborn through age 11.
Call Richere Lyon at 421-3139 or drop off gifts at the church, 1425 N. Texas St., Fairfield, between the hours of 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Tuesday through Friday.
Mission Solano: Serves the homeless and needy.
Wish list: New blankets, new socks for men and women, new underwear for men and women, new pajamas for youth, gift cards for teens, new and unwrapped toys, 1,000 paper plates, 1,000 paper napkins, 1,000 plastic cups, 1,000 sets of plastic utensils.
Call Donna Quintero at 685-3017 or visit http://www.missionsolano.org.
My Own Book: Provides books and teens to read books.
Wish list: Teen volunteers willing to read and brand new or gently used books.
To help, visit: http://www.myownbook.net.
National Council of Negro Women: Advocates for women of African descent.
Wish list: Clothing for two females, ages 18 and 19, and a 19-year-old male. A doll or toy for a 3-year-old.
Call Peggy Sherrod at 429-3183 or 486-8379.
Princess House: Transitional program for female ex-offenders and other women in crisis.
Wish list: Scarf and gloves, body spray, lotion and gel, size-9 women’s slippers, gift cards, extra-large bathrobe, cash, non-perishable food, pots, pans, cleaning supplies, heavy blankets and a passenger van that will hold seven to eight people.
Call Paulette Hampton at 427-2502.
Samoan Christian Fellowship Church: For Christmas giveaway.
Wish list: Toys for children up to 18, gloves, scarves, beanie hats, socks, leg warmers, new winter jackets or coats for children up to 18, stocking-stuffer items such as snack food and candy items, electronic toys and gadgets, hygiene items, reading books for children up to 10, school supplies such as crayons, markers, pens and pencils, rulers, erasers, lined paper and notebooks, school backpacks, Christmas stockings and gift wrap, new laptop, desktop, flat screen TV and memory sticks for computer.
Call Johanna Danielson at 419-9730 or email her at [email protected].
Solano Coalition for Better Health, Solano Kids Insurance Program: Provides health insurance to children in need.
Wish list: Cash donations.
Call Julia Smith at 330-8440 or visit http://www.solanocoalition.org.
Solano County Animal Rescue Foundation: Mission is to reduce pet overpopulation, find foster homes for animals and provide care and medical treatment for at-risk dogs, puppies, cats and kittens in Solano shelters.
Wish list: Cash donations.
Solano Feral Cat Group: Operates low-cost spay and neuter program for feral cats.
Wish list: A 2,000- to 3,000-watt generator, cat food, cat carriers and humane traps, 18 gallon and larger plastic storage containers with lids, gift certificates for gas, cleaning products, towels, stamps, backyard “sanctuaries” for garden cats, barn homes for feral relocation and cash.
Call 384-7968 or visit http://www.solanoferals.org
Solano-Napa Habitat for Humanity: Mission is to eliminate substandard housing in Solano County.
Wish list: 14-foot box truck with power lift, computer server, gift cards to home improvement stores, white copy paper, paper trimmer, gift cards for gas, HP Laserjet cartridges, cash donations and volunteers for office help and construction.
Call Diane Agnone, executive director, at 422-1948 or visit http://www.solanonapahabitat.org.
Spare for Change: Works to involve youth in an annual fair for the homeless.
Wish list: Cash, new socks, toiletries and volunteers.
Spring Life Ministry: Serves the needy.
Wish list: Gift cards for gas, food and clothing, funds for help with education, job search and youth rehabilitation seminars.
Call Saint Charles Thurman at 419-5436.
Suisun Senior Center: Provides social activities and weekday meals to senior citizens.
Wish list: Sponsors for Christmas luncheon on Dec. 17, cash, food, decorations, door prizes.
Call Karen Mickens at 421-7203.
Supporting Our Cancer Kids: Provides free support services for children with cancer and their families in Solano County.
Wish list: Gift cards, especially for gas and groceries, travel-size toys, games, handmade blankets, scarves and hats computer paper and Canon ink cartridges.
Call Marty Close at 410-6786 or email him at [email protected].
Donations can be mailed to SOCK, PO Box 2282, Vacaville, CA 95696 or dropped off at Specialty Tax & Services, 1101 Missouri St., Fairfield.
Teen Connection Mentoring Program of Solano County: Works to change the behavior and mindset of high-risk youth.
Wish list: Gift cards to department stores and fast food eateries, age-appropriate fragrances and toiletries.
Call Ivonne Malove at 280-0921.
The Crystal Music Booster Club: Supports band, choir, guitar, ukelele, rock ‘n’ roll, karaoke and drama clubs.
Wish list: Baritone saxophone and 100 red polo shorts.
Call Joan Gaut at 290-5627.
Tools of Learning for Children: Helps preschool children learn to read.
Wish list: A website upgrade, sponsorship of 350 children, new team member volunteers to help interface with schools and parents.
Call Margaret Miller at 332-4673 or visit http://www.tools4preschool.org.
Unity Hall: Provides social activities and events for individuals and families seeking and maintaining recovery from substance abuse.
Wish list: Sponsor for electronic volunteer record keeping, phone line software, larger building for events and meetings, 75 new chairs, oval conference table, workshop tables, computer projector and screen, stereo/recording public address system, wireless printer, pickup truck, pop-shade structure and new gas barbecue.
Call Roger Maryatt at 372-0540.
YIPPIE Foundation: Helping homeless and low-income youth break the cycle of poverty.
Wish list: Student sponsors, cash, printing paper, three-door refrigerator, three-door freezer, new and used two-flavored yogurt machine, a food truck, gas cards, Chamber of Commerce membership dues, donations for silent auction, acoustic guitar, gift cards, portable DVD player, laptop, iPod, toys and clothes for young boys, men’s street bike, women’s clothing, clothing for a newborn boy.
Call Sherilyn Henry at 208-0853 or email [email protected].
Donations can be dropped off at 1652 W. Texas St., No. 248, Fairfield.