#TeamHayden: Students show support for classmate with cancer

PELHAM – In support of a student battling leukemia for the second time, students and teachers at Pelham Ridge Elementary raised more than $7,000 for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society (LLS).

LLS campaign manager Maggie Rountree said the money will go toward providing financial assistance for families and funding cutting edge research programs aimed at finding a cure for cancers of the blood.

Pelham Ridge students presented a check for $7,769.73 to Rountree at the school’s monthly assembly held on Wednesday, March 22, at 8 a.m. For three weeks in February, teachers and students participated in a fundraiser called Pennies for Patients. Teachers set up online donation pages while students were given collection boxes to store their donations, school counselor Janey Patty said.

The fundraiser was to show support for a 10-year-old fifth grade student named Hayden who is currently battling cancer for the second time. Students also made a huge #TeamHayden banner that was signed by every student at the school.

Pelham Ridge’s entire fifth grade class took a picture holding the banner and the school plans to frame to photo for Hayden and his family to keep. Hayden also had the opportunity on March 22 to throw the first pitch at Riverchase Middle School’s softball game.

Hayden was first diagnosed with leukemia in September 2014, according to his father Bryan Qualls.

After his diagnosis, Hayden spent three and a half months in the hospital undergoing treatment. In January 2015, Hayden and his family received the news that he was in remission.

It was during a routine checkup on Feb. 8 that Hayden and his family received news that after two years of being in remission, Hayden had relapsed. Cancer cells were detected in his spinal fluid. His doctor decided that the best course of action would be for the 10-year-old to undergo aggressive chemotherapy for 30 days.

After the first week of treatment, the number of cancerous cells in Hayden’s body was cut in half. After the second week Hayden was cleared to go home because his body responded very well to the treatment.

“We were expecting him to have to stay in the hospital for the entire 30 days, but we ended up being able to go home two weeks sooner than expected,” Qualls said.

The family is now in a waiting period to see how effective the treatment was. Throughout his journey, Qualls said Hayden has maintained a positive outlook.

“He has every right in the world to feel mad and angry and want to give up, but he’s kept a positive attitude through it all,” the father said.

Hayden has been able to keep up with his schoolwork by using Google Classroom. His teacher can use the platform to post assignments and upload videos.

Qualls said he appreciates the school’s effort to raise money for LLS, which helps families with copay and traveling costs. The first time Hayden was diagnosed, Qualls said the biggest struggle for the family was staying afloat financially.

“We didn’t know what to do or what to expect the first time around,” Qualls said. “Now we know what we’re up against.”

To further help offset the cost of doctor visits, traveling for treatment and loss of work, the family is selling orange #TeamHayden bracelets for $3 each. Leukemia awareness is represented by the color orange. The bracelet also includes the words, ‘Never give up,’ which is the motto of Hayden’s favorite WWE wrestler John Cena.

Qualls said Hayden also likes to use the hashtag #CancerCan’tSeeMe, which is a play on the name of Cena’s debut studio album You Can’t See Me.

“We just want to say thank you to everyone for the support,” Qualls said. “Everyone’s prayers and thoughts are appreciated. This disease can be beat. Through the money that is being raised, researchers will find a cure.”