October 3, 2012
Eighteen-year-old Sabrina Cannella is determined to raise awareness for childhood cancer in honour of her best friend, who died from the disease last month.
Cancer takes the lives of approximately 90,000 children worldwide each year, according to the Kids Cancer Care Foundation of Alberta. Despite this, childhood cancer is underfunded and most people know very little about it.
“It makes me so angry,” Sabrina said. “If kids can fight every single day, why can’t we fight for them?”
Three years ago, Sabrina met Taylor Filorimo, a teenaged girl from Nashville, on Twitter. Taylor was fighting renal cell carcinoma, a rare type of kidney cancer usually affecting men over 55. The National Institute of Health in Washington, DC, confirmed she was the youngest known person in the United States to have this type of cancer, and possibly in the world.
Despite the distance, Sabrina and Taylor quickly became best friends. They Skyped every day, and this past August they finally met in person.
“The best three days I will ever have in my life,” Sabrina said of their meeting.
On September 4th, Taylor was life-flighted to the hospital following a seizure that left her unconscious. The next day, at the age of 16, Taylor passed away.
Taylor always said, “I will not let the fear of cancer strike me out.” An apt phrase, as she was a softball player. She had the courage to rise above her illness and fight with a smile on her face. Her goal was simple: to raise awareness about the reality of childhood cancer.
To fundraise for childhood cancer, Sabrina sold Pray for Tay silicone bracelets and donated the proceeds to SickKids Hospital in Taylor’s name. She also runs a Twitter account, @PrayForTay, where she raises awareness by sharing Taylor’s story and her battle with cancer.
Inspired by Taylor’s positive outlook on life and her wisdom beyond her years, Sabrina is not only determined to help children who are fighting cancer, but to help children fighting all types of illnesses. A year and a half ago, Sabrina started a non-profit organization that creates care packages for children who are fighting illnesses all over the world.
“This is my way of hugging [children who are dealing with illnesses] from across the globe, and handing them a little sliver of childhood that has been so unfairly ripped away from them,” she said.
To date, Sabrina has sent approximately 50 care packages to children in Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States. She finds out about children who are in need of care packages either through their Facebook support pages or from their friends, families and supporters. She then contacts the child’s parents for permission to send the child a care package and to find out what the child likes or needs.
Sabrina knows firsthand how grueling appointments and hospital stays can be, having herself spent a lot time in and out of SickKids Hospital since being diagnosed with a liver disease. Currently studying nursing in a collaborative program at Centennial College and Ryerson University, she said her nurses at SickKids were her saving grace, helping take the focus off her situation and making her hospital stays easier to cope with. She hopes to do the same for other children and “give them the ‘sweet’ in a very bitter situation.”
- Purchase a Pray for Tay silicone bracelet by contacting Sabrina at email@example.com. Proceeds go to the Taylor Filorimo fund.
- Follow @PrayForTay on Twitter.
- Wear a gold ribbon and tell people about childhood cancer.
- Donate to a childhood cancer foundation (SickKids Hospital, Childhood Cancer Canada, St.Baldrick’s).