BY MELANIE YOUNG
Morgan Pusdesris’ fight against cancer was life changing for the 12-year-old’s family. His family now wants to help other families by raising funds for the hospital that helped save his life.
Morgan was diagnosed with Choroid Plexus Carcinoma, or CPC, when he was 3 years old. According to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, CPC is a rare form of brain cancer that begins in the ventricles of the brain. The ventricles carry the cerebral spinal fluid, and as the cancer grows, the flow of fluid is blocked, causing pressure in the brain. CPC accounts for only 3 percent of tumors.
When Morgan was diagnosed, his case was a test case at Children’s Hospital of Michigan, as they hadn’t seen a case of that type of cancer for 12 years. The hospital contacted renowned children’s cancer hospital St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Tennessee and asked them to help. According to Morgan’s mother, Deanna, St. Jude doctors reviewed everything about Morgan’s case.
“St. Jude provided the roadmap for Morgan’s treatment,” said Deanna. This allowed the family to stay in Michigan while he underwent his treatment regimen. “St. Jude will work with any doctor in the world. A lot of people don’t know about that.”
Many fundraisers were held in the months after Morgan was diagnosed. Among the groups that helped with fundraisers was the Builder’s Club from Grosse Ile Middle School. The Builder’s Club is a student-led service organization for middle school students sponsored by the Kiwanis Club. Morgan’s mom said that when he entered middle school, he wanted to give back to the community that supported him, so he joined the club.
According to Pam Rieger, special education teacher and Builder’s Club advisor, being a part of the group helps with leadership skills.
“It helps middle school students focus on something besides themselves.” Rieger said.
The group of 150 students holds four major fundraisers a year, including a Trick or Treat for UNICEF, Pennies for Pasta for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and a dodgeball tournament in the fall to benefit the American Heart Association.
The most recent fundraiser was the St. Jude Math-A-Thon that was held in January. For the event, students at the school received a “Funbook” of math problems, customized for each grade level. Participants collect donations from their sponsors based on all the problems they solve. This year, 63 students raised $5,975. Families of children treated at St. Jude never receive a bill for treatment, travel, housing or food. Funds raised help St. Jude save lives.
Morgan Pusdesris earned $2,700, which was the highest of any student. His mother Deanna said his original goal was $200, but once they sent emails to friends, family and coworkers, the total started rising, as they remembered Morgan’s battle.
“Everyone who knew my story donated.” Morgan said.
As the student who raised the most money, Morgan received the honor of serving as emcee for the carnival held at the school for anyone who raised at least $5 for the event.
According to his mother, Morgan knows how St. Jude helped him and he understands how much the money raised will help the children there. Morgan has been cancer free for seven years, but must have a yearly MRI for the rest of his life. The family hopes to visit the hospital in Memphis at some time in the future.
“Right now it’s too hard for him, “said Deanna.
The Pusdesris family’s goal is to get other schools involved in the event. They want to focus on making things better for kids who are sick. Deanna Pusderis knows the family has been blessed.
“We had great doctors and great support. I want to take that energy and support others. We are forever changed by this experience, but there is a better side,” Deanna said. St. Jude means a lot to Morgan as well. “One of the doctors helped us out by curing me from cancer,” he said.
For more information about the Builders Club, visit www.builders-club.org. For more information about the Math-A-Thon, visit www.stjude.org.