On Friday evening, a block party with musicians, bake sales and raffles was held in front of businesses at Surrey Center on Highland Avenue. Restaurants and retail stores donated portions of sales to the fund inspired by neuroblastoma patient Patrick Chance, of Atlanta, and 9-year-old Brennan Simkins, of Augusta.
Press On Day focused fundraising efforts on the last day of Childhood Cancer Awareness Month with a goal to raise $100,000 for research related to neuroblastoma and acute myeloid leukemia. Brennan received his fourth bone marrow transplant at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital this year for acute myeloid leukemia.
“When you consider how inspirational these two little boys are, it’s something worth the community rallying around,” said Mayor Deke Copenhaver who read a special proclamation at the event.
Individual contributions rolled in throughout the day online, but the exact amount raised will not be known until next week. This week, children’s lemonade stands in Atlanta and North Carolina raised several hundred dollars.
Turner Simkins, Brennan’s father, said the day’s highlight was speaking with the family of Patrick, who had just received news about additional treatment options.
Thomas Lee, a 10-year old pupil at Episcopal Day School, was inspired by Brennan’s story to hold a bake sale at the block party with several friends in hopes of helping other children.
“They have a life ahead of them. They still have things to do,” Lee said.
Childhood cancer survivor Marquis Martin, 16, attended the event with advice for other patients: “If you ever feel like giving up, just keep pressing on ’cause you will make it.”
Students and teachers of St. Mary on the Hill Catholic School collected $1,313 in exchange for an out-of-uniform day. The school’s 435 students wore Press On stickers during school on Friday, said Ellen Hoffman, a second-grade teacher.
The school participated to support the Simkins family but also to raise awareness for childhood cancer.
“It’s important for (the students) to participate to know what Brennan’s going through and support him on his journey,” Hoffman said.