Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Hailey Johnson True Ojai Treasure

Young cancer survivor comes to aid of kids in similar situation

By Nao Braverman
Hailey Johnson, 13-years-old, soft-spoken and confident, already knows she wants to be a doctor.
Even though she’s just plowing through junior high school, there’s something in her voice that affirms she means it. Perhaps that’s because she’s battled cancer herself, and knows what it means to be hospitalized.
“I want to do something for other cancer patients,” she said. “I also remember how great the nurses and doctors were and I want to give something back.”
She was recognized as a Living Treasure by the Rotary Club of Ojai and Rotary Club of Ojai-West this year.
At age 6, Johnson was diagnosed with neuroblastoma, a solid tumor that spread throughout her body, a disease she probably had for years prior to the diagnosis.
Though she spent a year in the hospital while other children her age were learning to swim and ride bikes, she got a true glimpse of what doctors do. She learned about chemotherapy and radiation therapy and observed doctors treating patients. But, most of all, Johnson learned what it means to be hospitalized, and gained a strong compassion for people who are ill.
Having spent Christmas and New Year’s in the hospital herself, Johnson knows what it’s like to be away from home for the holidays. Though she has been out of the hospital for years, she recently came up with a way to help other patients at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, where she stayed for a year. That’s Hailey’s Treasure Chest, a fund she put together to raise money to buy things for children at the hospital.
“Those kids deserve to feel as good as they can while they are in there,” she said. The idea came out of a bake sale she held with her sisters one idle summer before seventh grade. They sold brownies, ice tea and crafts. Johnson then came up with the idea to use the money to help children at the hospital. At first she donated a small sum to help the patients at Children’s Hospital get toys and also for patients’ families to buy bus tokens if they needed it.
“Some families don’t have cars and so it gets expensive for them to visit family members at the hospital,” she said.
Now she is raising funds so that patients at the Children’s Hospital can celebrate the holiday. They might want a Christmas tree, or holiday gifts, she said. Though her family brought her treats and gifts while she was in the hospital she knows that not all children there have that privilege. Johnson has spoken at several schools and most recently the Ojai Presbyterian Church about her experience to raise awareness and to collect funds for the treasure chest. So far they have raised more than $1,800.
“It’s truly amazing,” she said, wise beyond her years, imagining what the $1,800 or so can buy for children at the hospital.

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