By Lora Scripps
Sydney Newton, 9, has a string of beads that wraps around her neck four times.
The Creekside Elementary fourth-grader is truthful to those who ask — “The beads are heavy,” she said. However, despite the weight of the beads, each one is particularly special to Sydney. Each bead tells a story of strength, honor and hope.
Sydney, the daughter of Jamie and Cynthia Newton, is a childhood cancer survivor. She has been cancer-free for almost four years.
At age 5, Sydney was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer known as rhabdomyosarcoma. It was during her treatment that she was introduced to a program called Beads of Courage through Children’s of Alabama in Birmingham.
Beads of Courage was created to help children with cancer, their families and clinicians to cope with the difficulties that come with the disease.
The beads on Sydney’s strand were accumulated during various steps in her journey to become cancer-free. Her latest additions include a couple of beads that she acquired after undergoing an MRI earlier this year.
“I got a special bead this year too,” Sydney said, adding it was given to her from Jean Baruch, the founder of Beads of Courage, at a Celebration of Courage party in Birmingham. “It’s my dream bead.”
Sydney described it as a white heart with a rainbow on one side and it includes dots of colors — red, yellow, green, blue and purple. She said the bead is special to her just like the beads other children requested such as a model of the Star Trek Enterprise and those that pay homage to Taylor Swift or other favorite things.
At the event, a bead — specially designed by Sydney — was given to children who are currently undergoing treatment. “It’s a ladybug,” Sydney said, describing how they were special to her when she was sick. “Seeing ladybugs make you happy and lucky.”
Cynthia, Sydney’s mom, also gave away special beads at the celebration. “She gave mother’s beads,” said Jamie. “We sponsored 75 beads that were all packaged with a special note from Cynthia. The beads were given to mothers with children undergoing treatment.”
The Newton family, including Sydney’s brother Dawson, currently travels to Children’s Hospital every three months. “It gives us the opportunity to meet families and talk and encourage them,” Jamie said. “Lots of parents are having difficult times.”
Childhood Cancer Awareness Month
September is set aside as Childhood Cancer Awareness Month and during the past three years, Sydney and the Newton family have held fundraisers, known as Sydney’s Coins of Courage, throughout the month. In the past two years, the events have raised more than $13,000 to help “encourage” children and their families battling cancer through the Beads of Courage program.
Sydney’s Coins of Courage goal in 2012 was $7,500. The fundraiser raised $8,400.
“This year we hope to beat last year’s goal,” Jamie said. “We have a great hope that we can fund a scholarship for a nurse at the University of Alabama-Birmingham with part of the money.” The scholarship will require the nursing student to spend several hours a week on the oncology floor at Children’s of Alabama.
“They would be responsible to ensure that every child on the oncology floor is receiving all their Beads of Courage and Giving parents a breather when needed,” Jamie said. “It will help the nursing student learn the importance of bedside manners, which is hard to teach in a classroom setting. We look forward to working with Beads of Courage, Children’s of Alabama and UAB to make it happen.”
This year, Sydney’s Coins of Courage goal is $9,000. “That should be plenty to cover the scholarship and do some amazing things,” Jamie said.
“Help me collect coins to encourage children battling cancer at Children’s of Alabama,” Sydney said.
Donate to Sydney’s Coins of Courage
To help Sydney and the Newton family in their fundraising efforts this month, visit www.crowdrise.com/SydneysCoinsforCourage2013 or any of the following businesses that will be collecting loose coins, paper money and checks payable to Beads of Courage in Sydney’s Courage jars:
• Pimento’s Gift Shop at 210 W. Market St. in Athens;
• Preston’s Western Wear at 1703 U.S. 72 E. in Athens;
• U.G. White’s Mercantile at 101 North Jefferson St. in Athens;
• Lin-Z-Dru’s Monogramming at 14536 E. Limestone Road in Harvest;
• Suzanne’s Bakery & Eatery at 1207 E. Forrest St. in Athens;
• The Grasshopper Children’s Boutique at 107 S. Marion St. in Athens;
• The Bakery of Elkmont at 23925 Thach Road in Elkmont;
• Snapdragon Kids Children’s Boutique at 113 W. Washington St. in Athens;
• Casa Blanca Mexican Restaurant & Cantina at 1802 U.S. 72 W. and 208 W. Market St. in Athens as well as any location in Madison or Huntsville.
Events happening in September
• Cupcakes for Sydney’s Coins for Courage will take place Sept. 17-21. For one week, the Bakery at Elkmont, located at 23925 Thach Road in Elkmont, will open its doors to sell cupcakes. Each cupcake purchased will help raise money for the cause. Each cupcake is $2.50. Flavors include Sundrop, Almond Joy, White Chocolate Raspberry and Death by Chocolate. Orders can be made by calling ahead at 256-497-4418.
• Spirit Night at Chick-fil-A from 5-8 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 24., Chick-fil-A will donate a portion of every meal purchased when patrons say they are visiting in support of
Sydney’s Coins for Courage. Change will also be collected in Sydney’s Courage Jar.
• An online Pampered Chef, Origami Owl and My Thirty One Party will take place through Sept. 9. All proceeds will go t o Sydney’s Coins for Courage.
Visit Facebook and like “Sydney’s Coins for Courage” for more details of events planned for Childhood Cancer Awareness Month.
To learn more about Sydney’s journey visit http://www.caringbridge.org/visit/sydneynewton.