November 13, 2013 - Hope is a big component in most cancer-related fund-raisers.
After five years of bravely battling acute lymphoblastic leukemia, Lakeville Elementary third-grader and Oxford resident Nicole "Colie" Burton, 9, passed away on Friday, Nov. 8. She's pictured here with her guinea pig Princess. (click for larger version)
Hope for a cure.
Hope for a longer life.
Hope for the future.
Sadly, in this case, Nicole "Colie" Burton's hope is gone as the Oxford resident passed away at home on Friday, Nov. 8, 2013. She was 9 years old.
But while nothing could be done to save Nicole from the acute lymphoblastic leukemia she was diagnosed with in September 2008, charitable efforts are underway to help lighten her family's burden by covering the cost of her funeral and burial, plus any other expenses.
Fund-raisers are set for Friday, Nov. 22 and Sunday, Nov 24.
The Nov. 22 event will be from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the Maximum Performance Training Center (The Max), located at 925 N. Lapeer Rd., Suite B. The cost is $10 per child.
The Nov. 24 event is from 2-4 p.m. at the Great Lakes Kids Energy Zone (715 N. Lapeer Rd.). The cost is $10 per child or $25 per family.
All proceeds will be donated to the Burton family.
"This is my way of not feeling so helpless," said Oxford resident Dawn Campbell, a close friend of the family who's helping to organize the fund-raising efforts.
"I'm trying to focus my energy on something that will help that family. There's not much more I can do other than just try to help raise some money so they don't have to face the burden of coming up with it to bury their daughter."
During the fund-raiser at The Max, kids will be able to play soccer, dodgeball and video games. Chicago Brothers Pizza in Orion is donating all the food and drinks.
At the Great Lakes Kids Energy Zone, children will be given the opportunity to experience all the fun equipment and activities the facility has to offer. There will be a silent auction and bake sale as well.
"They'll have the run of the gym," Campbell said. "I wanted something family-oriented and this seemed like the perfect place. The parents can come and mingle. The kids can play."
Guido's Premium Pizza is also doing a fund-raiser for the Burton family.
From Nov. 24-30, Guido's will donate a percentage of its sales whenever customers mention the "Pizza for Colie" Facebook page.
"It's just amazing the way the community's reaching out for this," Campbell said.
Nicole, who was a third-grader at Lakeville Elementary, recently came home to receive hospice care.
It was the sad, final chapter to a story that began when she was diagnosed with cancer at age 4.
For the last five years, Nicole endured numerous chemotherapy treatments and a bone marrow transplant.
"That little girl is my hero. She's touched so many lives," said Campbell, who's son, Stephen, a Lakeville fourth-grader, was one of Nicole's best friends.
Twice Nicole's cancer went into remission.
"She's a fighter," Campbell said. "She's been a trooper through it all. She's done everything she's had to do. She's fought all the way."
"Her attitude was she was going to kick cancer's butt," she continued. "When she kicked cancer's butt, she let everybody know it. She always had a positive attitude about it."
Campbell, who had known Nicole since kindergarten and even baby-sat her, said fighting cancer is a lot for anyone to handle, let alone a child.
"But she handled it with such grace," she said. "It was amazing to watch her journey. She (was) braver than a lot of adults."
Unfortunately, a few weeks ago, the cancer returned in a "very aggressive" way.
"It's heartbreaking," Campbell said. "I wish I could (have taken) her pain away, but there (was) nothing I (could) do for her."
Unfortunately, Nicole didn't qualify for any clinical trials and her body was in such a state that undergoing chemotherapy would have been so toxic that she would have ended up being kept alive by machines until the chemo finally killed her, according to an internet posting made by her mother, Shelley Burton.
That's why she and her husband, Jim, made the difficult decision to place Nicole in hospice care and "let God's will be done."
"I know many of you have questions," Shelley wrote. "I don't have all the answers as of today."
Although she hasn't asked them directly why they chose to place Nicole in hospice care, Campbell said it seems to her the Burtons just wanted to spend as much time as possible with their daughter and try to spare her from any more pain or suffering.
"Everybody wants to know why," she said. "I don't have the heart to ask those questions and I'm not going to ask those questions because as a mother, (Shelley's) going through enough right now."
Throughout this whole experience, Campbell's been extremely impressed with the way Shelley has handled things.
"She's one of the strongest women I know," Campbell said. "Watching her deal with this over and over again, she's always faced it head on and always had the same attitude Nicole had – we're going to fight this and we're going to win. I don't know how she has the strength to do what she's doing."
When asked to describe Nicole, Campbell used words like amazing, sweet, kind and generous.
"She (was) just a great little girl," she said. "She (liked) playing with her friends, hanging out with her cousins. She (was) just a fun kid."
Campbell noted Nicole loved "everything" to do with Monster High, a line of fashion dolls inspired by monster movies, science fiction and thrillers.
Nicole is survived by her parents Jim and Shelley Burton; grandparents Maureen and Jim Burton, Sr. and Sharon and Terry Lang; great grandmother Margaret Hessin; aunts and uncles Monique (Earl) Reese, Aaron (Jenny) Burton, Terry Lang, Deana Pankotai and Scott (Tina) Lang.
She's also survived by many cousins, her dog Koda and her guinea pig Princess.
Funeral services were held on Tuesday, Nov. 12 at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Lake Orion.
Interment was at Eastlawn Cemetery.
Memorial contributions may be made to Angels of Hope or to assist the family with expenses. Donations to assist the Burtons can be sent to Sharon Lang, 3368 Dartmouth, Oxford, MI 48371.
CJ Carnacchio is editor for The Oxford Leader. He lives in the Village of Oxford with his wife Connie and daughter Larissa. When he's not busy working on the newspaper, he enjoys cigars/pipes, Martinis/Scotch, hunting and fishing.