ARCADIA - Kim Martin, a Cicero resident and science teacher at Hamilton Heights Middle School, and other staff and students, are braving a complete shave of their heads for the Hamilton Heights Middle School St. Baldrick's Foundation fundraiser for childhood cancer research.
Childhood cancer is the number one disease killer of children in the United States, more than many other childhood diseases combined, and is an issue that hits very close to home for Martin and her family.
Of Martin's five children, three have died of childhood cancers. Her most recent loss was just last year, when daughter Andrea, 28, died of leukemia after battling childhood cancers from age 15.
When Martin heard that her school was sponsoring a fundraiser for life-saving research close to her daughter's birthday, Oct. 8, she said she knew it would be the perfect way to celebrate and honor her daughter's memory as well as the memory of her sons Nolan and Drew.
Martin's sons, Nolan, 7, and Drew, 19, died of childhood cancers on Oct. 9, 1993. and May 2011 respectively.
"Cancer can be such a relentless disease," Martin said.
Four of Martin's children inherited a rare genetic disorder called LiFraumeni Syndrome, which predisposed them to multiple cancers. Andrea, Nolan, and Drew battled cancer a total of 11 times.
"It's been a long, hard road," Martin said. "Nolan was only 22 months old when we found his tumor. It was such a shock. That was the beginning of it for us, and we've been battling cancer off and on ever since for thirty years now. We had an intense period of time when we battled 10 cancers in 7 years - first one after another, then two at a time, then three at once. If it weren't for our family, friends, and the great Hamilton Heights community, I don't know how we would have gotten through it."
Martin became known as "the Hair Fairy" after she wrote a book of encouragement to kids with cancer in Nolan's memory called H is for Hair Fairy, and founded a non-profit organization, The Hair Fairy Project, Inc., www.hairfairy.org.
The Hair Fairy is like the tooth fairy and puts money under the pillows of children with cancer on the day they lose their hair from chemotherapy treatments. Martin founded the non-profit in 2005, but has taken a break for the last few years due to her own daughter's cancer treatments and death.
"When I visit hospitals as the Hair Fairy, I hear from children that they think I'll have no hair too, like them. After Tuesday, that'll be true," she smiles.
You can join Martin to support life-saving research for childhood cancer by donating online at https://www.stbaldricks.org/participants/mypage/935663/2017. Martin and the Hamilton Heights Middle School community hope their efforts will bring us one step closer to a cure for childhood cancers.