Event “socks it to” pediatric cancer

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The “Sock it to Cancer” family carnival invites people of all ages to join the fight against pediatric cancer. Hosted by local nonprofit Brains for Hope in partnership with Parkview Women’s and Children’s Hospital, the carnival takes place 5-8 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 22, at Parkview Field.

Admission is $10 or a sock full of change. Adults are free. Proceeds from the fundraiser benefit pediatric cancer research.

“We wanted to open it up to everyone and not discriminate if someone couldn’t afford it. We decided that would be a fun way for kids to pay their own way to get in,” said Maggie Saal, who, along with her husband, Andrew, founded Brains for Hope.

The Saals started the organization after their daughter Camryn was diagnosed with a rare type of brain cancer in 2012. Primitive Neuro Ectodermal Tumors (PNET) affects 400 kids worldwide every year. Camryn, who was 7 years old at the time, was given a 20 percent chance of survival. She beat the odds thanks to her doctors and support system in Fort Wayne, Maggie Saal said.

It was during this experience that the family discovered that there was little to no funding and research being done for childhood brain cancer. After Camryn’s recovery, the family wanted to raise awareness and give back to the community, so they started Brains for Hope in 2015.

The organization hosts an annual gala to raise funds which they donate to pediatric cancer research foundations and local organizations that support families dealing with pediatric cancer. To date, Brains for Hope has donated more than $175,000.

This year, the organization wanted to expand its fundraising efforts to include something for children in the community. The Saals’ daughters and their friends’ children wanted to know: “When can we do something? We want to help.”

The family carnival will feature a dunk tank, carnival games, face painting, henna tattoos, balloon art, bounce houses, batting cages and more. The event will also include tours of Parkview Field. Concessions will be open during the carnival if people want to grab a bite.

Children are helping plan games and activities for the carnival. They are also helping promote the event and asking businesses for sponsorships. Maggie Saal said it’s been a learning experience for the children and a lesson in leadership skills.

“It’s just so important to teach them to give back and be a part of the community … (It teaches them) to have that philanthropic heart and give back,” she said.

Today Camryn Saal is in remission and recently celebrated her 14th birthday. She loves music, dancing and doing crafts. She’s excited for the carnival and for the opportunity to get more involved with Brains for Hope’s fundraising efforts.

“I thought it would be fun to do a kids’ event because the gala’s only for adults and it’s not fair to the kids that they can’t have fun doing something with Brains for Hope,” she said.

Camryn’s younger sister, Eliza, 12, said she doesn’t want other children with cancer to feel alone – she wants them to know that their peers support them.

“I really wanted to help because… I think if kids have an impact on it, it will make the other kids in the hospital feel like, ‘Oh, the other kids know what’s going on. They care about me,’” she said.

Maggie Saal is hoping to make the family carnival an annual event. Those who might be interested in sitting on a committee for Brains for Hope can contact her at brainsforhope@gmail.com.

“We’re always looking for people to expand our pool of volunteers,” she said.

For more information, visit //brainsforhope.org/.

If you go…

What: Sock it to Cancer Family Carnival

When: 5-8 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 22

Where: Parkview Field, 1301 Ewing St., Fort Wayne

Admission: $10 or a sock full of change (adults are free)

Website: //sockit18.auction-bid.org/microsite/