Local Elementary Students Brace(let) to Fight Cancer

April 30, 2017 | by Hilary Benson

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Ewan Lill (center) and K-Kids Club students show off their orange bracelets with their teacher, Barbara Tivnan | Contributed photo: Hilary Benson

Each spring, the traditional 5th grade sweatshirts are a hot fashion item among Mercer Island’s kidset.  This year, Lakeridge Elementary School students are accessorizing with bright orange bracelets. With “K-Kids Cure Cancer” printed on them, the rubber bands are raising money for leukemia research.

Lakeridge’s K-Kids Club, with some 40 students, is the service component of the Kiwanis Kids program. Having one of their fellow classmates, 2nd grader Ewan Lill fighting Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia, the group voted this year to dedicate their year-long project to fundraising for leukemia research.

From the beginning, this has been a kid-driven effort. “They each got to choose how they supported the club,” said K-Kids advisor and 2nd grade teacher, Barbara Tivnan. “The artists could do the posters, kids who liked public speaking got to do the announcements, they could go where their expertise is.”

K-Kids working on a poster promoting the orange bracelets | Contributed photo: Jennie King

The K-Kids made an iMovie video featuring a classmate’s interview with Ewan. When asked about his first symptoms of leukemia, Ewan describes how his legs hurt to the point that he couldn’t walk when his mom then decided to take him to the hospital.

When Ewan’s family got his leukemia diagnosis last summer, their world was suddenly turned upside down. Many local families responded with an outpouring of support.

“There are people in the community that have faced things or gone through things, so we’ve been wrapped in love,” said Jenny Harrington, Ewan’s mom. “A lot of people have been willing to walk with us.”

Family friends quickly formed the Team Ewan group to support the Harrington-Lill family. Being a fan of superheroes, Ewan chose Captain America has his logo. Their Team Ewan Facebook group has 273 members who follow his treatments at Seattle Children’s, support events, and other family news.

On the Lakeridge campus, the orange bands have helped break through what Ewan’s mom said can be a feeling of isolation that people can experience when they are sick.

“He got asked by a 5th grader to sign their sweatshirt,” Harrington said. “And it’s great because Ewan didn’t feel like it was because of his leukemia, but because the kid knew him.”

K-Kids quickly sold out of the 500 orange bands, said parent volunteer Jennie King. At $3 apiece, some families bought a few bracelets and wrote generous checks at bigger amounts. Others ordered dozens of bracelets to support the fundraiser.

Besides collecting approximately $2,500 for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, the bracelet fundraiser has raised students’ awareness of cancer. The K-Kids group may do a spring field trip to Seattle Children’s. Harrington shared a conversation she had last week when asking Ewan how he felt about seeing someone wearing the orange wrist band?”

“Happy,” Ewan said.

“Why?” She asked.

“Because it means they are trying to find a cure.”