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Saturday, November 1, 2014

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Student raises funds for childhood cancer research

Tags: Health

Jonathan Ari Katz has raised more than any other individual for the Childhood Cancer Foundation – Candlelighters Canada, and he would like to raise more.

Jonathan Katz sports a gold cancer awareness pin at his recent bar mitzvah.

His goal, in honour of his recent bar mitzvah, is $18,000. According to his page on the foundation’s Small Hands website dedicated to small-scale projects, as of last week, Jonathan had raised $13,780, or 76 per cent of his goal, mostly through donations that he requested in lieu of bar mitzvah gifts.

In fact, he has raised almost $14,500, but a smaller amount is listed on another of the foundation’s websites, affiliated with an annual fundraiser that was started by a family friend. His page was moved to Small Hands, which is active year-round, because he would like his fundraising to be ongoing.

The Grade 8 student at Associated Hebrew Schools knows of another youngster who climbed a mountain to raise funds for the organization, and one who rode across Canada on his bicycle, but he believes that “you don’t need to do astonishing things to raise a lot of money.

“I wanted to do something special for my bar mitzvah, and I decided to help children all across Canada to find a treatment for cancer [so that] they don’t need to go through a lot of pain and suffering,” he said in an interview at the school, where his mother Eynat is a vice-principal at the Kamin branch  in Thornhill. She and her husband, Arny, a dermatologist, also have a nine-year-old daughter.

The foundation, which was started about seven years ago, funds cancer research in the 17 children’s hospitals in Canada. As well, scholarships are given to childhood cancer survivors as they enter post-secondary institutions. Jonathan is funding one scholarship, but the bulk of the money he has raised is designated for research.

Jonathan noted that his grandfather died of cancer, and his grandmother is in remission.

“It’s a very common disease. If we can somehow get a cure for it, or at least a treatment that doesn’t let children suffer, it will be a big help.”

Three hundred and fifty guests celebrated Jonathan’s bar mitzvah at Associated’s Kamin branch on a Monday morning last month.

An inquisitive 13-year-old who likes math, science, art and music, Jonathan started life as a premature twin, born at 24 weeks, 16 weeks before his due date. It took two months before he reached a weight of one kilogram.

His twin brother, Ari, lived only a few days, and Eynat – who has been a fundraising spokesperson for Women’s College Hospital, where Jonathan spent his first four months – said that doctors predicted Jonathan would never walk on his own and would be severely handicapped.

“Which I’m not,” he interjected, stating the obvious.

Determined to prove the doctors wrong, Eynat worked with an occupational therapist and a physiotherapist she knew from the Hospital for Sick Children, where she was on staff at the time of Jonathan’s birth, doing psychoeducational assessments. They developed a six-hour-a-day therapeutic program, four hours of which Eynat administered herself.

Mary Lye – the foundation’s director of marketing and communications and the mother of a childhood cancer survivor – said Jonathan is “an extraordinary role model and leader… not just for children but for adults.”

He has always had an interest in research, and wrote in a school project a few years ago about wanting to find a cure for cancer, his mother said.

To continue his fundraising, Jonathan plans to sell gold cancer awareness ribbon pins at his school, as he did at his bar mitzvah.

As well, he would like to start a club for Jewish children at both Jewish and public schools to raise money and socialize together.

“I look at my life as a gift,” Jonathan said in his bar mitzvah speech. “I am ready to give something back for all of the help that everyone has given me over my lifetime.”

For more information, go to http://childhoodcancer.ca

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