There’s only one name that comes to mind when Cory Emerson thinks of the bravest person she knows: Ryder Evans-Brockett.
Ryder, Emerson’s cousin, was a superhero. The odds were stacked against him in the battle he began fighting at just four years old, when he was diagnosed with a rare form of brain cancer.
“He had a kind of cancer that wasn’t a tumour, it’s more like the cancer was sprinkled all over his brain,” Emerson, 17, recalls. “It was like an orange dust that wouldn’t go away.”
Within 10 months, and after going through five rounds of chemotherapy, a stem-cell transplant, a spinal tap and more, Ryder was back at home living life like a normal kid. But that normalcy only lasted a couple short months; the cancer returned late in the summer of 2009. Ryder lost his battle with cancer 19 days before his sixth birthday.
“There is a boy whose age I can count on one hand. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5,” Emerson reads from her spoken word poem, lifting a finger for each one of Ryder’s few birthdays. “Doesn’t know the truth as he reaches and takes his mother’s hand as they walk to school for the first time. He doesn’t know that he won’t live long enough to reach the other hand.”
Emerson, a Grade 12 student at Reynolds secondary, read her emotionally charged poem “Santa Claus” in front of her classmates on Tuesday at the school’s kickoff assembly for their Cops for Cancer Tour de Rock fundraising campaign.
The school has raised just shy of $400,000 for pediatric cancer research in the last nine years as a Tour de Rock supporter, including $109,000 in 2012 alone.
“This is a cause that resonates so deeply with most everyone, but in this building our kids turn good ideas and well intentions into action,” says vice-principal Dean Norris-Jones. “They’re motivated by the notion that they want to be the change they want to see in the world. And for someone like me [an educator and a cancer survivor], it’s humbling to witness.”
Reynolds students spend the 11 days leading up to Oct. 4, when the Tour de Rock team pulls in to the Saanich school, fundraising – with gusto.
Head shaves, car washes, bake sales and auctions are standard at Reynolds. But this year they’re elevating their fundraising to a new level.
Victoria hockey fans will have a chance to support Reynolds and Cops for Cancer. The school has teamed up with the Victoria Grizzlies, and will be hosting fundraising events at the Grizz’s home game Friday (Sept. 27). Then the Victoria Royals will help Reynolds raise money with a 50-50 draw at their Oct. 6 home game.
Emerson has launched a creative fundraiser of her own. She recorded a video of herself performing “Santa Claus,” the poem for her cousin, and posted it on Youtube (bit.ly/1dJ7LAa). Now she’s looking for sponsors who will donate money each time the video is viewed online.
“I want people to watch and feel how brave my cousin was, and be like, ‘Wow, that kid was put through something that no one should ever have to be put through,’” Emerson said. “My poem is something that I want people to love to hate. … I want them to feel so angry or sad or a mix of both after watching it that they want something to change.”
At Reynolds for four years now, Emerson says she’s overwhelmed by the strength of emotions that come from her classmates supporting a cause so near to her heart.
“I know what we’re raising money for. I know who I’m raising money for. I know who I’m standing out in the pouring rain washing cars for. I don’t want someone else to feel how my aunt and my uncle did. I don’t want anyone else to go through what my family did,” she says.
The Tour de Rock team is set to arrive in Greater Victoria next Wednesday (Oct. 2) For more information visit tourderock.ca. To contact Emerson about sponsoring her video, call the school at 250-479-1696.