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Kids fly kites to conquer cancer

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Published:   |   Updated: March 18, 2013 at 04:00 PM
TAMPA -

Even with no wind to aid her cause, Cassidy Gonzalez was determined to get her kite to fly.

She ran up and down the grassy field and even the parking lot at Trinity School for Children, trying to get the small plastic kite airborne.

When she ran really fast, it would climb a few feet into the air before plunging to the ground in a tangle of string.

The fifth-grader laughed. She wasn't deterred by her difficulties.

After all, when you've battled — and beaten — cancer, wrestling with a pesky kite is no big deal.

Cassidy and about 700 of her classmates at the school, located at 2402 W. Osborne Ave., gathered outside Friday morning to fly kites in a campaign for cancer and blood disorder awareness to benefit the Children's Cancer Center.

"It's really cool because all of my friends are flying kites and it's neat to see," she said. "It makes me feel good because all of them are helping."

More than 15 months ago, doctors found a cancerous tumor in Cassidy's nose. She went through 48 weeks of chemotherapy and nine weeks of radiation.

All the while, her mother, Yvette Gonzalez, said, she was wrapped in a blanket of love from those at her school.

"She couldn't have gotten through her cancer without this family here at school," she said. "She came to school bald and they never looked twice at her."

Last school year at this time, Cassidy was run down, ragged and couldn't get through an entire school day.

On Friday, she thanked fellow students for their support. Last year, the school raised $14,000 for the cancer center with kite sales and a walk. Those funds helped send children with cancer to a camp.

"It's part of our mission, it's part of our philosophy, that we give back to others," said Madeline O'Dea, founder and principal of the school.

"It is absolutely amazing to see the depth of support that our children give each other."

Diego Pradera, a sixth-grader at the school who battled leukemia several years ago, was touched by the support he has received over the years.

"It means a lot," Diego said. "It's amazing that everyone is doing this to help kids who have cancer."

Many times on Friday, with the lack of wind being an obstacle, the kites spent more time on the ground than they did in the air. There was string tangled around hands and feet. A kite from 4-year-old Leo ended up stuck in an oak tree.

But everyone had fun. And they took to heart the words of Patty O'Leary, the chief operating officer of the cancer center, which serves 1,000 families in the Tampa Bay area.

"We strongly believe that kids should be flying kites and not fighting cancer," she said.


rshaw@tampatrib.com (813) 259-7999
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