Draper Elementary students raise more than $700 for children with cancer

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EDEN, N.C. -- Students at Draper Elementary school raised more than $700 this month to donate towards children with cancer.

The project is called “Pennies for Patients.” All money will be donated to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.

Parents like Valecia Dillard, whose son is a third grader at the school, know the struggles of caring for a child with cancer all too well.

Her son Carmello, also known as C.J., was diagnosed with a rare form of liver cancer at five years old.

"The tumor was like the size of a grapefruit," Dillard said. “One side of his stomach was growing larger than the other."

Today, C.J. is nine years old and cancer-free after a liver transplant.

"I thank God that he allowed me to keep my child because I really thought that he was going to be gone,” Dillard said.

He's also a big part of why his classmates and other students at the school have been collecting pennies to raise money for cancer victims and survivors.

"This became very personal to our staff and our students," said school counselor and project organizer Mironda Williams.

Students raised $725 since the first week of February. Their goal was $500.

"I told them to look on the sidewalks, on the ground, in between their sofa cushions," Williams said.

Students like McKenzie Lemons took the assignment to heart.

"I think it's important for the kids who have cancer to get help," said the 10-year-old.

Her brother Trey Lemons was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia in 2009.

Acute lymphoblastic leukemia is a type of blood cancer that mainly affects children.

Trey has been cancer-free since 2012.

It’s the kind of recovery McKenzie hopes will let her brother and C.J. focus on what's important at that age.

"Go outside and play games instead of being in the hospital, fighting for their lives," Lemons said.

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