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St. Michael School brothers raise money for Perry Township child with tumor



The Canton Repository
CJ and Cree McAfee had come up with a classic way to make money so they could buy a hoverboard — selling lemonade.

After telling mom, however, the young brothers quickly changed their minds and thought of another plan — using a lemonade stand to raise money for children fighting cancer.

Their mother, Megan McAfee, quickly got to work on social media, searching for a charity to help the boys find children in need.

She got connected with the Little Pink Ribbon Girl Foundation in Stark County, and also enlisted the support of several local businesses, including Mission BBQ, Chick-fil-A, Gregory's Family Restaurant, Sprinkle City, Acme Fresh Market, In the Mix Bakery. Halfsies Cookie Co., Fresh Mark and Coco's Confectionary Kitchen.

"We found the foundation," McAfee said. "But (the boys) are the ones who said they wanted to help kids with cancer. I just said, 'If we're going to do it, let's do it big.'

"It makes us so proud they wanted to do it," McAfee said of her and her husband, Chris.

The Canton boys' efforts have earned them recognition as The Canton Repository's 2021 "Unsung Heroes."

When asked about their goodwill, the brothers answered mostly with their smiles, but said helping children who are battling illness makes them feel "happy."

Cree, 7, is a second-grader and CJ, 9, a third-grader at St. Michael School, part of St. Michael the Archangel Catholic Church in Plain Township.

"I'm so grateful to these two little boys who are such an inspiration," said Katie Vitale-Lloyd, president of the Little Pink Ribbon Girl Foundation. "And them choosing us is such an honor."

"I think it's just amazing that these boys came up with this idea ... and they just went off with it, " she said. "And they are such an inspiration to our community, and everyone tries to make such a large impact when all it takes is just a little bit of an impact."

The foundation's mission is to assist individuals and families with the financial strain of cancer.

For more information and to learn how to donate to the foundation, apply for assistance or volunteer to serve on the board, visit  www.littlepinkribbongirl.org/.

The foundation is also on social media at www.facebook.com/Lprgfoundation

"My sister had this vision for helping other people, and it was kind of her life in a nutshell," Vitale-Lloyd said of Conley. "She was a special education teacher. She always just wanted to help kids; it was just natural to her."

Members of the Gott and McAfee families meet on Dec. 9, when Cree and CJ McAfee presented money they raised at a lemonade stand. Spencer Gott, 3, has a tumor in his brain stem. The families were connected through the Little Pink Ribbon Girl Foundation in Stark County.
"Little Pink Ribbon Girl" is a reference to Conley's height of 5 feet 1.

Conley was diagnosed with breast cancer at age 27 before it metastasized to her lungs and brain. She died in 2014 at age 36.

She was a 1996 graduate of Central Catholic High School in Perry Township, and following graduation from Bowling Green State University, she was employed through the Stark County Educational Service Center and taught at Minerva Middle school.

The Little Pink Ribbon Girl Foundation started in 2018.

"It's not just breast cancer," Vitale Lloyd said of the foundation's work. "It helps any cancer."

She said the foundation provides grants to both women and men with cancer.

The lemonade stand took place in June in the parking lot of The Uniform Guy on Whipple Avenue NW, where Megan McAfee is employed.

Lemonade, hot dogs, chips and cookies were sold. Dad grilled hot dogs. Mom helped out. The boys poured and gave out lemonade. Grandparents also were involved. Representatives from the Little Pink Ribbon Girl Foundation attended.

Also lending support at the lemonade stand and fundraiser was Canton police officer LaMar Sharpe of the Be A Better Me Foundation.

Donations were generous, with some customers paying for a $4 combo meal with a $20, $50 or $100 bill while donating all of the money to the fundraiser.

A total of $2,100 was raised.

The boys also contributed a total of $200 in tip money to the Little Pink Ribbon Girl Foundation, which then awarded the funds raised at the lemonade stand to two Stark County children and their families.

Earlier this month, Cree and CJ and their parents met 3-year-old Spencer Gott, of Perry Township, and presented his family with a portion of the funds.

The rest of the funds were given to a second child from Stark County who has cancer.

Spencer's mother, Stacy Gott, expressed deep appreciation for the assistance, noting the involvement of the two young boys made it extra special.

"Coming from a family with a lot of boys, it was really sweet they would spend their summer doing something like that," she said. "Any little amount, we've told people we're grateful for.

"We had a garage sale, and we had people buying things for a quarter, and I would tell people buying toys for 50 cents, I'm not going to turn away any of it.

"In the grand scheme of it, this is a larger amount, so we're very grateful for the boys and their lemonade stand."

The money raised helped with expenses the Gott family incurred during a recent trip to the Burzynski Clinic in Houston, where Spencer received treatment.

The family spent three weeks in Houston for Spencer's antineoplaston therapy, an alternative treatment, which is now being administered at home with an infusion pump that runs throughout the day, Stacy Gott said.

Spencer was diagnosed in April with a tumor in his brain stem and soon underwent surgery, she said.

"So far it is benign, so it should not spread like cancer," the mother added.

"We've heard different things from different doctors," Gott said. "Some say it is cancer. Some of them say it's benign (and not cancer).

"We see an oncologist," she said. "I always call it a tumor."

Radiation and chemotherapy are other options, but Gott said she and her husband first wanted to try the alternative treatment without as many side effects for the child.

When Spencer met the McAfee family recently, the 3-year-old was shy because he didn't know Cree and CJ and their parents.

Chris McAfee, however, said Spencer eventually warmed up to the visitors.

"At church, he is nicknamed 'Smiley Spencer,'" Stacy Gott said. "That's who he normally is; that's how he always is, and we've always said he was our perfect last baby because he was so happy."

Megan McAfee said the boys plan to have another lemonade stand fundraiser in 2022.

Vitale-Lloyd, of the LIttle Pink Ribbon Girl Foundation, expects more generosity from the brotherly duo.

"I can't imagine what they're going to do next year," she said. "I'm just honored they chose us, and they let us be part of it as well."


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