In today’s episode of This Hits Different, Shelby Cassesse tells the story of Aiden Hanna, who has turned his own cancer diagnosis into a large fundraiser for others going through similar circumstances.
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Hampton student using cancer diagnosis to help others
Hampton sophomore Aiden Hanna is a two sport athlete, busy with baseball and golf. So it didn't seem like a big deal when his ankle started hurting over the summer.
Though the initial diagnosis was a sprained ankle, Aiden and his parents Tracy and Paul felt that wasn't quite right.
“So we went back, got more Xrays, and then we found the bone tumor on my left fibula,” Aiden says.
Aiden was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, a bone cancer, turning their world upside down.
“Obviously we were shocked, couldn't believe it,” Tracy says. “You never want to hear the cancer word, especially associated with your child.”
But what Aiden did that same evening he got his diagnoses blew Tracy and Paul away.
“He gave all his money that he had on the Xbox to this charity,” Paul says. “It was the first day that he came back from his MRI to see that. That's when I said, 'hey, people are going to ask what they want to do. What do you want to do with this?' And he's like, 'well, I won't need all that stuff.' And that's my proudest moment as a parent.”
A donation to a cancer organization just the start for Aiden. As word of his diagnosis got out, the Hampton community rallied around him.
“The football team came one day and gave him the game ball after the first football game,” Paul says. “The soccer team gave him a game ball and the team signed it. And the golf team is wearing his wristbands when they are competing.”
Aiden says the support he's received has been a difference maker.
“It’s been very helpful and just very nice of everybody,” he says.
But he quickly realized not every kid with cancer is getting the visits, gifts and signed game balls.
“I just realized how tough it was and I never really realized that before,” he adds. “And I just wanted to give back, really, because I realized everybody didn't have half as much of the support that I was getting.”
Though Aiden still has 17 weeks of chemo to go himself, he wanted to do something to uplift other kids on a similar journey. What started as a Go Fund Me is now Aiden's Helping Hands, an organization that raises money to buy gift cards for families at Children's Hospital.
The cards typically go toward stores to buy necessities or food delivery services. Aiden can sense it's making an impact.
“it really helped this one family,” he says. “They were struggling, and we gave them a couple of gift cards, and they were really happy. So I just want to continue making kids and families happier.”
The organization hosts events, like softball tournaments, that are raising tens of thousands of dollars. Though the family is sticking with gift cards for now, they're hoping to make it bigger in the future, including getting kids to local events that can be difficult for a cancer patient.
“Game tickets to private club level seats,” Paul says. “You need you need smaller groups to be able to enjoy some of those things. It helps them say, like, 'hey, I want to get healthy and have something to look forward to.'”
A powerful reminder that making a difference doesn't require a certain age or a ton of time. Only a big heart and a helping hand.
“He understands what he's going through, and he's seeing what these other kids are going through,” Tracy says. “And then he decided, what can I do to be the positive light?”