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‘Warriors and angels’ grace these greens

Local family starts Childhood Cancer Awareness tree in honor of daughter

Jennifer Rathbone places a gold ribbon on the Childhood Cancer Awareness Christmas Tree her family setup in front of their Schenectady home. The tree is in honor of her daughter, Ila Jean, who died last year.

Jennifer Rathbone places a gold ribbon on the Childhood Cancer Awareness Christmas Tree her family setup in front of their Schenectady home. The tree is in honor of her daughter, Ila Jean, who died last year. Photo by John Purcell.

— Rathbone said getting awareness of the state of childhood cancer research is her main goal. There is also a cancer awareness sign to let people know what the tree represents.

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Luke, a friend of the Rathbones, secures gold ribbon to the Christmas tree raising awareness for childhood cancer.

“It is a fairly busy street, so I figured a good-sized tree covered in gold ribbons and lit up at night is going to be eye catching,” she said.

She argued pharmaceutical companies don’t see “enough money to be made” in researching childhood cancer, because only a limited number of children are diagnosed each year. She said this leads families with children that have cancer to raise funds for research. In the span of decades, children suffering from most cancers still have a relatively low chance of survival.

“It is a sad story,” she said. “You know it is happening. You feel really bad. You say, ‘Oh God, don’t let it happen to me’ … and then one day it does.”

Through Ila Jean’s battle, Rathbone said she met a lot of families in similar situations and saw many start their own foundations to fundraise for research. Shortly before her daughter passed away, she formed Team Ila Jean, with her daughter helping to develop the logo.

Now, she continues to use the team to help raise funds for other foundations and organizations.

“Rather than starting another foundation, because there are so many out there that are great, we could be the support for those and anybody around the country can join,” Rathbone said.

For information on Team Ila Jean and the organizations Rathbone personally supports, visit the group’s website at teamilajean.webs.com.

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