Journal Entry

Thursday, September 23, 2004

"The real things in life are not made of gold. The real things are contained in a necklace made of plastic beads."

By Donna McConahay Sandusky River Chapter
American Red Cross

The above reference was made in regard to the beaded old necklace I wear that Christi made me the day she was diagnosed and for which I told her I'd remove when she was cured or when it broke. (I'm still wearing it, but with hopes of one day her cutting it off forever.)

Another wonderful, blessed week - we couldn't be more pleased! Thank you prayer warriors!! Tuesday's "Alex and Christi's Lemonade Stand" on the campus of Heidelberg was a tremendous success. Our deepest thanks to all involved!! I was teaching, but Shayne was able to attend the event. He said that Christi was feeling so well that she stood and poured about 200 cups of lemonade all by herself. (She had complained the day prior of knee pain - a very scary sign that the cancer is progressing in the bone marrow, but I keep telling myself that was nothing as a coping strategy to help me get through each day.) I was humored when Shayne told me that some of the students were getting their cups autographed because some of the professors told their students that they'd get extra points if they brought their cups back signed by Christi. (Amazing! Amazing book! Amazing kids... Amazing college! - thanks, 'Berg!)

From the Heidelberg Announcement:

It was a beautiful day for many reasons as little 7-year-old Christi Thomas served lemonade to the Heidelberg Community, Tiffin folks, classmates from Bridges Community Academy, passersby and even some drive-thru customers who pulled up along the curbside. Thus far, as of 3:00 on Tuesday, the total amount raised for pediatric cancer research at our lemonade stand is $1800.60...and counting. The class of EDU 344/345, professors Mary Jo SanGregory and Lori Grine, and the Thomas family would like to thank the Heidelberg community for their support and love shown to this spunky little gal who touched a lot of hearts today. The steady stream of visitors of all ages was overwhelming. From the book Alex and the Amazing Lemonade Stand, "When life gives you lemons...make lemonade!" Thank you for your love and support!

And one of my Heidelberg Professor friends sent this email following the exhausting event: Well, we're a tired but happy bunch over here in the education dept. Christi was spunky and wonderful in the classroom and a real trooper all day. Angela, I just love her and could take her home with me! She was very loving and full of hugs! She loved Ernie! (This is Lori's puppet which she incorporates into some of her classes / teaching. She's an amazing puppeteer!) They'll have to be buddies now! Christi, Kaleb and Parker seemed to not lose energy like the rest of us. Tif went to get them each a pizza. Christi did not eat very well but was also very busy. I was thrilled to get to know Shayne more today. He said now I've met your better half! :) What a great guy he is! He took lots of pictures, which I'm counting on because my camera died part way through.

The girls cried in our class, one in particular had a tough time as Christi read and then talked and told about wanting to be a vet when she grows up. She had a lot of fun talking to Ernie. Poor Ernie was choking up at times and having trouble responding. Kaleb and Parker were troopers and helped the whole time. There were just no breaks. I didn't realize how tired I was until I sat down in the car to drive the kids back to BCA. But they kept me awake! :) Linda B. (bless her helpful heart) was so wonderful. She was like an angel who just kept reappearing throughout the day helping out wherever needed.

What love God has shown us today...what an outpouring of support was shown. One of our gals in the class said how impressed she was when this big burly football guy walked up and paid a 20-dollar-bill for a glass of lemonade. And Kaleb was stumped when some people put in money but didn't want lemonade! Huh???? The Bridges kids got refills!

Ok...I'm pooped! I'll write more later and love you and your family so much! Angela, this helps me to know that life can go on and go on well even with adversity and encourages me to keep going! Oh, Shayla was just a ball of excitement! The girls were getting quite a kick out of her. They said, "and we thought Christi was spunky!" That's my word for Christi. I hope the newspaper articles turn out well.

More later...
Love to the Thomas Team,

So how did Christi end the very long and tiring day? With plenty of energy and an hour long ballet class back on campus at good old Heidelberg College! Praise be to God! She even came home saying, "Mom, I made up some new ballet steps. Can I show you before my bath?" Amazing, quite simply amazing!

Wednesday she told me that her legs didn't hurt, but that they felt really tired probably from all of the walking she did. (I don't know that she did any walking, but this is really concerning me. I realize that the tension of the October scans is just starting to build.) After school we took off for the hospital so that we could get her blood drawn out of her arm and get the results before religion classes back at church at 6:30. (Did I mention that she wanted to ride her bike to her friend Kaylyn's house to take her a flower she picked? And that was only about 3 miles away so she and Shayne took off after a bite to eat. Unfortunately, time didn't permit them to make it all the way to Kaylyn's and her bike had to go in the back of my van so that she wouldn't be late for CCD. What a hoot!)

And with a big smile and with good news I report that her counts were tremendous! 5.0 white, 10.0 hgb. (low!!) platelets of 118 (low, but fine) with an ANC of 3,400 (nearly unbelievable!) With great counts like those she qualified to start her chemo (round #6 of this new experimental ABT - 751) on Thursday morning (today). She'll continue taking the oral pill each day for 21 days straight. Our prayer request continues to be that this is holding her disease steady, but now with some complaints of pain I'm getting quite nervous.

The lovely weekend will be spent down in Cincinnati with my awesome and only sister, Tina, and her family.

We thank you for your love and support and we wish our Jewish friends a very happy Yom Kipper! Enjoy!

Love, the Thomas Team Mom - Angela

College gets lesson in courage
7-year-old's Heidelberg visit helps fight cancer

Christi Thomas, 7, sells lemonade at Heidelberg College in Tiffin to raise about $1,800 for cancer research. Christi was diagnosed two years ago with neuroblastoma, a rare form of childhood cancer.



7-year-old's HEIDELBERG visit helps fight cancer

TIFFIN - For most 7-year-olds, the thought of reading to a class of college students would bring on a severe bout of shyness.

Most couldn't imagine standing on a college campus selling cups of lemonade to hundreds of strangers.

But to Christi Thomas, who did both of those things yesterday at Heidelberg College, they're just two ways to promote awareness of a deadly form of childhood cancer - and raise money for research toward a cure.

Christi Thomas reads to college students from Alex and the Amazing Lemonade Stand.


The Clinton Township girl, who was diagnosed two years ago with neuroblastoma, told nine students in an early-childhood education class that she draws inspiration from healthy people who give blood and undergo medical tests to help others.

"People say I'm brave, but I have to get pokes with needles in my arm so I can get better," she said. "I think the really brave people are the ones who don't have to get poked but do it so other people can get better."

During her appearance before the class, Christi perched herself on a wooden rocker and read a story about Alex Scott, a Philadelphia girl who raised nearly $1 million for neuroblastoma research before dying of the disease last month at the age of 8.

Her feet dangled above the floor and her long blond hair swung as she turned and bounced in the chair.

Christi Thomas talks with Lori Grine, an assistant professor at Heidelberg College, after reading to students in her early-childhood education class.


"They waited in line, the young and the old, they waited for a cup of lemonade, extra sweet and icy cold," Christi read from the picture book, Alex and the Amazing Lemonade Stand.

"This year was even better as the lines were longer. Alex's determination for a cure grew stronger. Again, she gave the hospital her money with a letter that said, 'Please use my money to help all sick kids get better.' ... Alex became quite famous, and caused such a whirl, she came to be known as the little lemonade girl."

Neuroblastoma is a rare cancer of the nervous system that strikes about 600 children a year. Christi had surgery last year to remove a tumor that had wrapped itself around her heart and spine, but the disease has spread into her bone barrow.

Christi answered questions from the curious college students, telling them about her medications, her friends, and her dreams for the future. She said she and one of her school friends have it all planned out.

"We're thinking about being veterinarians," Christi said. "We're going to go to the same college and ask to be roommates."

Her father, Shayne Thomas, said Christi has beaten the odds to live this long, due in part to an experimental drug she began taking this year. The medicine, called ABT 751, "is not curative, but it's a drug designed to keep her stable," Mr. Thomas said. "It keeps the cells from replicating."

After her book reading, he watched as his daughter poured cups of lemonade outside the Lavely-Shedenhelm Education Center, chatting animatedly with students, faculty members, and other customers. Despite her prognosis, she shows no outward signs of the disease and has suffered few side effects from her medicine.

"It's classified as terminal, but if you didn't know it, you wouldn't know it. So I'll take it," her father said. "In February, we were told probably six months. We've gone beyond that. But nobody knows. It's a wild guess."

Kathleen Lawry, a college spokesman, said the lemonade stand rung up $1,800.60 in donations for the Philadelphia Foundation's Alex Lemonade Fund, a charity established by the Scott family to fund neuroblastoma research.

The early-childhood education class co-taught by assistant professors Lori Grine and Mary Jo SanGregory organized the stand and solicited donations of lemonade, equipment, and commemorative T-shirts sold for $10 each.

One of the students, senior Andrea Bluhm, said she hopes to work with terminally ill children. "I'll be working with little girls and boys like Christi every day, so this is inspirational for me, and reminds me how much I want to do this," she said.

Contact Steve Murphy at:

A united stand against cancer

Christi Thomas teamed up with Heidelberg College students Tuesday to raise money for cancer research with a lemonade stand on the college campus.


A united stand against cancer

By John May,

Heidelberg College and third grader Christi Thomas collaborated Tuesday to raise money for cancer research.

Christi has been diagnosed with neuroblastoma, a cancer of the nervous system that strikes about 600 children per year. She is in third grade and attends Republic Elementary three days a week and Bridges Academy two days a week.

Christi had a lemonade stand on Heidelberg's campus Tuesday to help raise money for cancer research. Children across the country are staffing lemonade stands for the same reason. Her friend, Alex Scott, started the lemonade stand fund-raising campaign. Alex passed away about a month ago from neuroblastoma.

"Heidelberg is a big part of the community they look beyond their borders," Christi's father, Shayne Thomas, said. "For the faculty and students to take part in the nationwide campaign of Alex's Lemonade Stand is great."

Shayne Thomas said Christi had met Alex while receiving treatment in Philadelphia. The lemonade stand is a tribute to Alex, he said. He said Christi is trying to help the national goal of raising $1 million, which Alex had set. Roughly $900,000 has been raised, he said.

He said Christi was excited about coming to Heidelberg, because she always says she wants to go to college at Heidelberg and live in Williard Hall with her friends.

Christi said money raised from lemonade stands has already found a pill to treat neuroblastoma instead of a transfusion.

Prior to selling lemonade, Christi read "Alex and the Lemonade Stand" to Lori Grine and Mary Joe SanGregory's early childhood education classes. The story was about the determination of Alex to raise money and find a cure for sick kids across the world.

Christi brought two friends with her to help her with the lemonade stand. Kaleb Grine, one of Christi's school friends, said he was there because he cares about cancer research and helping Christi. He said he also has fun serving the lemonade.

Students from Grine and SanGregory's early childhood education class worked to help make everything possible for the lemonade stand.

"As an educator, it is important to be involved in the community, it is important to show students their lives are important to us as educators," said Jill Bisignano, a senior in early childhood intervention. Bisignano said they had about a week to organize the lemonade stand. Work for getting the stand together included gathering sponsors and putting up signs on campus.

Grine said everything for the lemonade stand was donated by community sponsors.

"This is a great way for students to connect with the community, as instructors we want to show our students teaching is all about connecting teaching with life experiences," she said.

SanGregory said the education department at Heidelberg is trying to give students hands-on learning. This community service project is a great way to provide them hands on learning, she said.