Crossville teacher advocates for childhood cancer awareness

Pictured is Jon Bales with wife Emily and children Aspen and Austin Bales. 

The DeKalb County Board of Education last Thursday recognized September as Childhood Awareness Month.

Advocate, educator and father Jon Bales addressed the board sharing a brief synopsis of his son Austin's fight with cancer, bringing awareness to the disease.

“I am a proud teacher at Crossville Middle School, and more importantly, I am a father to a child that at 17 months was diagnosed with Leukemia,” he said. “For three and a half years, Austin fought Leukemia and I am proud to say that he is winning that fight.”

Bales said his son has been in remission for more than four years now. However, in the DeKalb County School System, numerous children are fighting daily to beat pediatric cancer.

“Today alone, 47 children in the U.S. were diagnosed with childhood cancer,” he said. “Every 30 minutes, a parent hears the words, ‘Your child has cancer.’’’

In Alabama, 206 children are diagnosed every year with one of the subtypes of childhood cancer, said Bales.

Per stjude.org, childhood cancer, also referred to as pediatric cancer, is not limited to one disease. There are many types found in various places throughout the body. The most common is leukemia. However, cancer can also occur in organs and tissues such as lymph nodes (lymphoma), nervous system (brain tumors), muscles, bones and skin (solid tumors).

Worldwide, about 400,000 children and adolescents are diagnosed with cancer each year, as reported by the American Cancer Society, Inc. Additionally, cancer is the leading cause of death by disease past infancy for U.S. children, with about 11,050 children under the age of 15 diagnosed with cancer yearly.

In September, advocates around the U.S. pay tribute to the families, friends, professionals and communities who lend their strength to children fighting pediatric cancer.

Advocates encourage all citizens to join in reaffirming the commitment to fighting childhood cancer through awareness and support.

Joining cancer survivor Austin Bales, a third-grader at Crossville Elementary was also Savannah Hooper, a seventh-grader at Plainview High School who is in remission from stage three lymphoma.

DeKalb County Schools Assistant Superintendent Brian Thomas commended Bales on his efforts to raise awareness and the annual coin collection fundraiser put on by his class for several years.

“The coin collection money is sent to help with research,” Thomas said. “But I think we have a new plan in place this year, his class is still going to collect those funds, but that money is going to go directly to DeKalb County Students who may be battling cancer in the form of gift cards and food cards.”

He encouraged other classes to get involved in the fundraiser as he thanked Bales for his leadership and efforts with the disease.

“His leadership has really set our county apart,” he said. “It’s those teachers who go out of their way to do more that make DeKalb County a great place to work.”

The international symbol of childhood cancer is a yellow or gold ribbon. During September, individuals, organizations and businesses are encouraged to wear or display yellow or gold bows or ribbons in observance of Childhood Cancer Awareness Month.

“It’s very unfortunate that any of our students face these battles. Our thoughts and prayers go with them,” said DeKalb County Superintendent Wayne Lyles. “It’s certainly worthy to take this month to recognize them and keep them at the forefront of our thoughts and prayers.”

To get involved or donate, visit www.stjude.org. For additional resources, visit www.cancer.org.

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