When Jennifer King says her son, Carson, is a hero, it’s more than motherly pride. The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society is celebrating the 7-year-old cancer survivor as this year’s National Pancake Day Honored Hero, part of a campaign in collaboration with the International House of Pancakes to raise awareness and funds for the fight against blood cancer.
This Tuesday, National Pancake Day, diners at IHOP were treated to a free stack of pancakes and invited to make a donation to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. The morning before, Carson and his first-grade classmates from Room 11 at Mount Daniel School were welcomed as guests to the Falls Church IHOP for a party, replete with pancake-shaped balloons, gift bags, and of course, sugar-dusted and syrup-drizzled pancakes.
Carson, seated at the center of a long table filled with his classmates, seemed like the average 7-year-old. He played with friends, gave toothy grins for photos, sipped from a twisty straw, and had his mom cut up his pancake.
Were it not for the signs around the restaurant, one might never guess that Carson had battled cancer for nearly half of his young life. The posters show a picture of today’s Carson set against an older photo of a thinner, smaller boy with hair cut close to his head.
Carson was diagnosed with leukemia in July 2009, and began a three-and-half year treatment program that in its heavy phase included different types of chemotherapy, rounds of radiation, and long hospital stays. He was declared in remission about a month into the program. His treatment ended three months ago and Jennifer says her son is in good health; he’s getting stronger and more energetic, and appetite has increased significantly.
“Carson’s doing great,” Jennifer said.
Carson has attended most of his first-grade year at Mount Daniel School, and should be able to finish the school year without incident, Jennifer said. He missed preschool because of his treatment but, taking the necessary precautions, was able to go to class much of his kindergarten year.
Paul, Carson’s father, said the City school system has been a help to the family through Carson’s treatment, even sending Carson’s sister, Francesca, home with schoolwork for three weeks during the height of the swine flu outbreak out of concern for Carson.
Carson’s teacher, Kelly Marple, coordinated the party with the local IHOP in order to honor Carson and celebrate his remission. She had invited her students and their families to donate to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, and her class was able to raise more than $700.
Teri Liguori, the manager of the Falls Church IHOP, said her restaurant “couldn’t be happier” to host the event, as Carson is a regular customer and her restaurant group is a longtime supporter of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.
Lisa Iannarino, director of marketing for the National Capital Area Chapter of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, said the National Pancake Day campaign raised $185,000 last year in the D.C. area. This year’s target was set at $220,000, but results of the drive were not available at press time.
Carson, in a few shy words to reporters at the event, said he liked pancakes and bacon and was enjoying having a party with his classmates. He is not only an honoree of the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, he’s also a spokesperson who has helped to spread the word about the National Pancake Day campaign, including in a radio interview on D.C.’s WMZQ.
“For LLS, we always like to have a representation of our mission,” Iannarino said, “and who better than a child survivor who can really remind people of what we’re raising money for and why this is important?”
Carson’s mother has also worked to raise funds for the organization. As the News-Press reported in January 2011, Jennifer raised thousands of dollars in donations for LLS by running the Walt Disney World Marathon.
The Kings said the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society was part of the community that helped their family through Carson’s cancer struggle, and they plan to continue their involvement with the organization as they look forward to their son’s cancer-free future.
“We just hope this will be something he’ll remember and it will just be something that happened a long time ago and he’ll go on to lead a completely normal life like everybody else,” Jennifer said.