By Tony Parra: PNT Staff Writer
Students from two schools from small farming towns are combining their efforts to help raise money for a young child who underwent surgeries to remove cancerous tumors.
Hope Bilbrey, a 3-year-old girl from Elida, underwent her first chemotherapy treatment in Albuquerque on Monday after two surgeries to remove cancerous tumors, according to her aunt, Kellie Bilbrey.
Hope Bilbrey was first diagnosed with two cancerous tumors, one by her kidney and the other by her liver.
“We were shocked,” Kellie Bilbrey said. “It’s really amazing and scary. You stop to realize just how much you should love your kids and to love them every day.”
Surgery took place at the Children’s Medical Hospital in Albuquerque on Dec. 30.
“It was sad seeing the kids in Albuquerque,” Kellie Bilbrey said. “The kids would have to stay in their rooms all day by themselves while their parents were at work. Hope’s parents stayed with her the whole time.”
Elida school students will earn money for walking laps around the Elida track during the “Walkin’ for Hope” event. The Elida “Walkin’ for Hope” event will be from 1 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. on Thursday. Diane Lieb, one of the coordinators of the event, said $3,000 has already been raised for Hope Bilbrey without taking into the account the “Walkin’ for Hope” events in Dora and Elida.
Lieb said students from both schools are receiving money to participate in the walks around the tracks at each of their schools.
“I think it’s a way of learning about community service,” Lieb said. “They’ve given of themselves to help out another child. The two schools are working together even though they have a healthy rivalry. They are competitive with each other, but they set that aside to help a child.”
Bilbrey went for a check-up at Albuquerque in early March and another tumor was found by her other kidney, according to Kellie Bilbrey.
Travis and Cody Bilbrey, Hope’s parents, took her to St. Jude’s Children Research Hospital in Memphis, Tenn. Rinne said Hope Bilbrey had the other tumor surgically removed on March 28.
Kellie Bilbrey, who is also a teacher’s aide for pre-school at Dora Elementary said she last saw Hope on Monday and Hope was in good spirits.
“Hope took a picture with her older sister (Hannah, who is six years old) before Hope underwent chemotherapy,” Kellie Bilbrey said. “She doesn’t even realize she’s sick. She loves to show her scars (from the surgeries) to people.”
Kellie Bilbrey said doctors told Travis and Cody that Hope will have to undergo chemotherapy for the next six to eight months. She said the doctors are hopeful Hope Bilbrey can leave the hospital and Wednesday and be able to return to her home in Kenna, a town on the outskirts of Roosevelt County, 30 miles southwest of Portales.
The Dora schools students opted to help Hope Bilbrey out and they will have “Walkin’ for Hope” events on Thursday and Friday to raise money. The high school students will participate in the event on Thursday afternoon and the elementary students will have their event take place on Friday morning.
“Our kids are very giving kids,” Steve Barron, Dora principal, said. “They are wonderful. They have big hearts.”
Karen Cone, Dora teacher and student council sponsor, said the students are also gathering soda can tabs to raise money for medical costs. Cone said students are gathering soda can tabs and sending them to the Ronald McDonald House and representatives from the Ronald McDonald House help with the chemotherapy costs.
Elida residents held an auction on April 9 to raise money for Bilbrey’s medical treatments.