At the age of 2, Amanda McKean ’13 was diagnosed with leukemia. It was the day after Christmas.

“My parents didn’t know what was wrong with me – I was having intense stomach aches and extremely high fevers,” she said. “After many tests, doctors determined that it was leukemia.”

After crushing leukemia at such an early age, McKean created Cancer Crusher, a non-profit foundation in 2008. As a survivor, she wanted to raise awareness and funding for pediatric cancer patients and their families.

This Saturday, Oct. 13, Fairfield University students will throw on their cowboy hats and boots for a night of square dancing to support the fight against pediatric cancer.

“Every time I go back [for checkups], I observe teenagers around my age who were missing out on applying to college, playing sports, going to prom … it made me realize that this age group is underrepresented when it comes to cancer,” McKean said. She believes that many people only think of children or the elderly as being affected by cancer, not the young adults.

According to the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City, each year in the United States about 3,000 children and young adults are diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia, the type with which McKean was diagnosed.
At the age when most children are dressing up their dolls or playing in the backyard, McKean was losing all of her hair from chemotherapy treatments. She was treated at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center by Dr. Norma Wollner who McKean calls, “the most incredible woman I have ever met.”

Wollner helped create the pediatric cancer floor at the Center and has since retired. McKean still stays in touch with the doctor who changed her life through the countless surgeries and spinal taps.

In high school, McKean launched the Cancer Crusher Foundation with numerous initiatives including organizational alliances, special programs and innovative fundraising events. The foundation’s mission is, “to crush pediatric cancer by empowering our community to collectively conquer this devastating disease, afflicting children from infancy to 25 years.”

When it came time to look at colleges, she chose Fairfield because of the “tremendous student involvement.”

She was able to create a Cancer Crush club on campus. Today, the club has over 100 members and continues to grow.

Last year, the first annual Cancer Crusher Hoedown raised over $5,000 for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, specifically for their work with pediatric cancer. Over 130 people attended to learn how to square dance.

Pat Cannon, the event’s square dance caller, walked the group through every step last year. McKean said, “I didn’t know the first thing about square dancing and by the end of the night she had everyone on the dance floor ‘do-si-do’-ing!”

Cannon will be calling the square dance again this Saturday night in the Oak Room from 8-10 pm.

The club hopes to surpass its fundraising efforts from last year.

Tickets go on sale this Tuesday at the Info Desk, but will also be available for purchase at the door. All tickets are $10. This is an FYE event.

This year the money raised will benefit Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, specifically for their pediatric cancer patients.

If interested in joining the Cancer Crusher Club, there is a meeting Oct. 10 in Bannow room 131 at 7:30 pm. Meetings are held every other Wednesday.

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