Lemonade Stand for Theo a Sweet Reminder of Kids Caring for Others
Emerson third-graders use recess time to dream big and raise more than $700 to help a young boy in his brave battle against cancer.
Third-grader Lea Pagonis came home from Emerson Elementary during the first week of school with some exciting news for her mom, Stacey. She and her friend Georggia Stamatopoulos had enlisted the help of four other classmates to help their friend, Theo Yianis.
In May, 6-year-old Theo was diagnosed with neuroblastoma, a rare form of childhood cancer. Although Theo lives in Palatine, he and his family are members of Elmhurst's Greek Orthodox Church of St. Demetrios, where Lea and Georggia also attend.
The four other Emerson girls, Kayla Rask, Maya Rebic, Olivia Quick and Arianna Caveney, do not know Theo, but they wanted to help, too.
A few days later, the six girls had decided to hold a lemonade stand for Theo.
“They decided on what task each one of them would do,” said Stacey Pagonis. “They got together to make posters.”
The girls were singing and dancing along with the karaoke machine while making brightly colored posters that read, “You Will Win!” and “Help Fight Cancer!”
“They [told] their friends at school, and the outpouring of support has just been overwhelming. A lot of the kids told the girls that they would stop by and buy lemonade because they want to help Theo,” Stacey Pagonis said. “It’s really sweet.”
Dean “Kosta” Yianis, Theo’s father, said Theo was excited to see his friends and even those he didn’t know helping him in his effort to beat his illness.
The lemonade stand, held for two hours on Saturday, Sept. 3, netted more than $700 in profit.
“It’s very heartwarming,” said Yianis, “especially in this day and age.”
Theo has just finished his fifth round of chemotherapy, but his course of treatment is just beginning. His father says the treatment for neuroblastoma typically lasts 12 to 14 months. Soon, Theo will undergo a stem cell transplant, followed by radiation and immunotherapy to rebuild his natural defenses.
When Theo completes his treatment in the summer of 2012, there is still a chance of relapse, but thanks to ongoing cancer research, odds of relapse in neuroblastoma patients has lessened over the last few years.
“[Theo’s] physician is one of the lead researchers on a lot of these clinical studies, which is why we went to the University of Chicago,” Yianis said. “We’ve got him in the best spot we can put him in, and we’re hoping and praying that we make the right decisions and the doctors have the right guidance and expertise to get him through."
In the meantime, the Yianis family has found overwhelming support from their friends and family, as well as complete strangers. At the end of the month, St. Demetrios will host its annual Fall Festival, and the proceeds will be donated to Theo and awareness for neuroblastoma and childhood cancer.
Yianis says the lemonade stand, run by kids not much older than his young son, gives him hope.
“We want to thank the Pagonis family, Stamatopoulos family and all the other families who participated in this,” he said. “It’s a testament to them that their children are very good children, and working hard for others."
September is Childhood Cancer Awareness month. To read more about Theo, visit his blog, Theo's Spot.