When first-grader Malone Bennett heard her friend Brecklynn Allgood was sick, she wanted to help.
“Brecklynn and Malone grew up together,” said Veronica Bennett, Malone’s mother. “They went to the same babysitter. So Malone’s just had a hard time understanding what her little friend was going through.”
Brecklynn was diagnosed with pleuropulmonary blastoma in November 2015. Since then, she’s completed chemotherapy and radiation, and will have her port and gastronomy tube removed Tuesday.
Courtney Allgood, Brecklynn’s mother, raised funds with other mothers through the month of September, which is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. The efforts helped raise thousands of dollars for several organizations dedicated specifically to childhood cancer research.
Bennett said her daughter came up with a way to help Brecklynn on her own in mid-August.
“We had just watched a video clip that Brecklynn’s mom sent out,” Bennett said. “In the clip, her mom was talking about the funding shortage, that childhood cancer only gets 4 percent of funding, and about how harsh the treatments are for children.
“Malone was very touched by that and got a little emotional about it.”
The National Cancer Institute, which receives its budget from the United States Congress, only dedicates 4 percent of its funding to research for childhood cancers.
Bennett said Malone, a first-grader at Mount Vernon Exploratory School in Hall County, wanted to help by selling all her toys. She started by making a makeshift stand with signs.
“Then I told her about Coins for Cure,” Bennett said of the fundraising drive for CURE Childhood Cancer. “Without my knowledge, she went ahead and started it at her school. She wrote a paper and presented it to her teacher and her class.”
Malone’s efforts soon caught on, and she made a presentation to a third-grade class as well. Bennett said the students started voluntarily giving up “their ice cream money.”
On her own in two weeks, Malone collected $50 just from ice cream money.
Bennett heard about her daughter’s efforts from a teacher at school, and soon signed her up as a fundraiser with Coins for Cure.
Together, they set a goal of $1,000. Bennett began posting online, and donations came in from across the country. An organization in South Georgia called Yoga Warriors for Cancer Patients even had a jar with Malone and Brecklynn’s story on it.
“It was really neat to see how it took off and grew,” Bennett said.
By the end of the month, Malone exceeded her goal, raising $1,006.
“She was so excited to share that with Brecklynn and her family,” Bennett said. “It’s just an example of how coming together, we can achieve great things for a greater purpose.”
Allgood said the local efforts throughout the month of September raised tens of thousands for childhood cancer research.
“We did a Gainesville Goes Gold date night, where all the proceeds went to Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, to the Aflac Cancer Center specifically,” she said. “We presented them with a check for $18,500.”
A family night on the downtown Gainesville square also raised money for Coins for Cure, and Brecklynn was a “rally kid,” selling T-shirts to benefit the Rally Foundation.
Brecklynn exceeded her $4,500 goal with the Rally Foundation, raising $5,639 in T-shirt sales alone.
“It was a very successful September,” Allgood said. “It just shows how wonderful our community truly is, how much people truly care. I’ve told people, every time I feel down, especially everything going on with the election, I see this community and the way they’ve come together for these children. It just restores your faith in humanity.”
Brecklynn will have her first set of scans post-treatment in mid-November, and will then continue scans every three months. She will also be surprised soon with a trip to Walt Disney World, her mother said, thanks to the Make a Wish Foundation.
“I also just want to say a thank you for everyone taking in and loving Brecklynn and us like their own family,” Allgood said. “We’ll be forever grateful, especially to sweet people like little Malone.”