Walking for Kearston
FORT KENT – When people in the St. John Valley heard about Sheri and Michael Albert’s three-year-old Kearston’s recent diagnosis with acute lymphoblastic leukemia, they immediately rose up in support of the family. That was never more evident than Saturday during the UMFK Homecoming and Greater Fort Kent Chamber of Commerce’s Scarecrow Festival when the community’s efforts raised in excess of $10,000 for the Albert family.
Family, friends, and even people from as far downstate as Houlton graciously showed their support for the Alberts by organizing fundraisers and passing on monetary and donations to a more than worthy cause.
One of young Kearston's first red flag symptoms made its appearance as a high fever of over 102°F. A visit to the Alberts' family doctor attributed it to a boil, then a serious infection. She was put on antibiotics, which seemed to be working, until the round finished and the fever returned.
Another visit to the doctor and a set of blood tests later led to devastating news for the family. Doctors confirmed that Kearston's heart-wrenching diagnosis was acute lymphoblastic leukemia, a rare form of childhood cancer, with only about six cases per year in Maine.
“Probably the worst phone call I've ever gotten, telling me that her blood work had come back and there were some unusual things in her blood work and [the doctor] said that he needed to see her back in the emergency room immediately,” said Kearston's father Michael.
She was transferred to Eastern Maine Medical Center for a nearly two week stay in their kid-friendly pediatric ward, where she received chemotherapy treatments. Doctors will continue to treat her weekly in Bangor, and then they will perform follow-up blood work for a check on her numbers. Kearston's treatment will span approximately two years.
“Hopefully, at the end of that, she'll be free of cancer,” said Michael.
Upon hearing the news that their friends’ daughter was ill with such a cruel disease, friends of the family sprang into action and organized a series of fundraisers that took place on Saturday, September 15 at the Scarecrow Festival in Fort Kent.
The Team Kearston Walk-a-Thon, with a minimum sponsorship of $40 per person, was integrated into the annual Scarecrow parade. Kearston rode in the family van, decorated accordingly, while her parents participated in the fundraiser. The Walk-a-Thon alone earned $9,125, deeming it more than successful according to organizers. The walk was an emotional event for all who participated, including the Student Nurses organization from the University of Maine in Fort Kent. Tears flowed freely at several points during the parade route.
To go along with the Walk-a-Thon, other Team Kearston events that day included a 50/50 raffle and a bake sale, bringing in funds for the Alberts in the amounts of $880 and $348, respectively.
The grand total of the community-wide effort brought an incredible one-day total of $10,353. The family even received a donation from someone in Houlton.
People in Fort Kent and the St. John Valley have a strong history of pulling together in times of adversity. The family has expressed on various public Internet forums that they are blown away by the generosity people have shown them during this time of need. They thanked the community for their prayers and support.
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