HARMONY, Maine — The youngsters had the gift of an amazing pastor who cared enough to make sure they understood the Bible and its meanings, who engaged them in spirited conversations and who recognized them on their birthdays.
When their beloved Pastor Tom Izon died in March from a fast-moving brain cancer leaving behind his wife, Pam Izon, who is struggling with her third bout of cancer, Jacob Sinclair, 12, Adrian Bussell, 11, Erica Lommel, 10, Madison Chadbourne, 11, and Evan Chadbourne, 9, knew they had to do something to help find a cure.
“It [cancer] seems like it’s a threat to everyone,” Jacob Sinclair said during an interview this week.
The youngsters, members of the First Baptist Church of Harmony, have organized Alex’s Lemonade Stand for July 12-14 at the two local stores, C&R General Store and the Harmony Country Store. They hope to raise at least $250 for pediatric cancer research.
Alex’s Lemonade Stand got its roots from Alexandra “Alex” Scott of Manchester, Conn., who was diagnosed with neuroblastoma and who held yearly lemonade stands in her yard to benefit childhood cancer research. When she died at age 8, her family organized the Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation to carry on her legacy.
The Harmony children, along with parents and friends, also plan to participate in the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life on June 20-21 at the Skowhegan Fairgrounds. They each hope to raise $100 for the relay.
“I would hope the people in the town would get behind these kids and support their fundraising efforts for both of these events,” parent volunteer Mary Ellen “Mel” Chadbourne said. “I think it’s admirable these kids would take up this challenge.”
Chadbourne said the pastor’s death and his wife’s recurring battle with cancer have had a profound impact on the children’s lives as well as those of adults in the community.
Lommel, who moved to Harmony about seven months ago, said she wants to raise funds to show people “how much it really does matter to me. It makes me feel I have to try harder to make people understand what will happen [if they get cancer].”
The group’s fundraising projects are meant to educate people about how serious cancer is and how devastating it can be to families, according to Madison Chadbourne. Toward that end, the children plan to have information about cancer available at the stands.
None of the children was born when the Izons came to Harmony in October 1996, and they’ve had no other pastor, so for the children to step up and think about the couple in their fundraising efforts is “pretty humbling,” Pam Izon said this week.
Izon was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1995, ovarian cancer in 2004, and now is fighting an aggressive, hereditary breast cancer that has spread to her lymph nodes. She recently completed chemotherapy, but because she has the BRCA1 gene, she plans to have a bilateral mastectomy later this year.
Because of her battles, Izon said she thought she would be the first to die. It was a shock to her that her healthy husband got cancer and died so quickly, Izon said as tears trickled down her cheeks.
“I have loved the Lord Jesus since I was 11 years old,” Izon said. “I committed my life to him and know he doesn’t allow things to happen without a reason and purpose,” but, she added, it’s hard for her to understand. Still, she said, “we can’t be bitter or angry because that would be a waste of time.”
What has helped her persevere is the outpouring of love from her family and the community, Izon said. “I love being here,” she said. With no home of her own, the church family is allowing her to stay at the parsonage as long as she needs to, she said.
The children enjoy Izon’s presence. “It’s about time she has some relief from it [the cancer],” Sinclair said.
Bussell said more has to be done to find a cure for cancer. In addition to his pastor, Bussell said he also had an uncle who died of cancer, and he doesn’t want to see any other family lose another person to the disease.
Toward that end, the children plan to do whatever is necessary to help get the word out, and they hope their small role will help lead to a cure.