By Jeanne Sager
CALLICOON When you step in the door of Jodi Wood’s home just a few minutes across the Callicoon bridge on the Pennsylvania side, she motions to a small dispenser on the wall. “Would you sanitize please?” she asks politely.
No, Wood is not a germophobe. At least, she wasn’t up until this year. Because this was the year when Jodi Wood became a statistic. She is the mother of a kid with cancer.
To look at Alonzo Wood, you wouldn’t know at first. You wouldn’t know that the 4-year-old who likes “sketti” for dinner and delights in cuddling on big sister Carissa’s lap is battling acute lymphoblastic leukemia.
In fact he’s the second child in Jodi Wood’s family to come down with this type of cancer. Her sister Jami’s daughter Hannah is still winding her way through the three-year treatment process for ALL as its known. Carissa helped with a fundraiser for Hannah put on by Kids Rocking Cancer, the non-profit Rodney Ezrapour started after his own adult battle with lymphoma.
The father of two remembers his daughter breaking down into hot tears, confused and scared when she learned her dad had cancer. Ezrapour looks at kids as the world’s greatest gift, and he has seen the emotional scars cancer leaves on them along with the indignity of having to battle a disease at such a young age.
His non-profit, though based in New York City, does much of its work with the sick kids in and around the Sullivan County area, and with their siblings, who become support systems for their family even when they need support.
And this month, they’ve turned their focus on the Wood family. A Kids Rocking Cancer rock concert will take over the Delaware Youth Center on May 19. There will be dinner and dancing, music provided by the popular Darren, John & BJ to help raise money for a family that’s joined a club no parent actively wants to be a part of. The National Cancer Institute estimates one to two children develop the disease each year for every 10,000 children in the United States. Kids like Alonzo.
He had a runny nose and puffy eyes in February, but his mom, who has spent 25 years at the Wayne Bank in Honesdale, PA, figured her son had a sinus infection. After all, other kids at daycare were battling the same thing.
But when she met ex-husband Ray Wood at daycare for pick-up one night, they realized their son was getting worse. That weekend Jodi took him to the emergency room, where they said he was likely battling one of those winter bugs that kids get. But it didn’t get better. So she kept him home from daycare and took him to Dr. Layton in Damascus, PA. By mid-week, they were headed to Janet Weis Children’s Hospital at Geisinger.
Alonzo would spend 32 straight days in the hospital with Jodi at his side, Ray taking as many trips as he could to Danville, PA, and Carissa trying to keep it together as a teenager whose parents had to keep their focus on her little brother. That’s where Kids Rocking Cancer comes in. Health insurance has helped, but Jodi was unable to work for months, and even now is only back part-time because Alonzo requires weekly trips to Danville for chemotherapy and cannot go into daycare and be around other children. And those trips take a toll on her and Ray, between the price of gas and the way the chemo hits Alonzo.
Jodi considers herself one of the lucky ones. She’s had support from her job, support from her community.
Alonzo’s cancer is considered treatable. It will be a long three and a half years, but there is hope. And 13-year-old Carissa has been “a godsend,” her mom says.
The seventh grader helps at home, and she’s become a big part once again with Kids Rocking Cancer. She’s been making chocolate lollipops and bracelets to sell during the fundraiser, and she’ll be helping out on May 19 too.
It’s for the family that Kids Rocking Cancer is doing the fundraiser. But it’s for Alonzo and Carissa most.
They are just kids, each rocking this crisis that’s hit their family, and they can use all the support they can get.
Alonzo Wood benefit
What: Kids Rocking Cancer’s fundraiser for Alonzo Wood.
When: May 19 from 4 to 8 p.m.
Where: Delaware Youth Center, Callicoon.
Open to families, the price of admission is a suggested donation of $15 for adults, $10 for kids 6 and up and a simple donation for younger kids.
More info: Visit www.kidsrockingcancer.com or the non-profit’s Facebook page. Tax deductible donations can be made to Kids Rocking Cancer, and checks should note the money goes to the Alonzo Wood Care Fund in the memo line.