WOODLAWN — —
Students of the Woodlawn Christian Church Vacation Bible School have come to the aid of a Sesser family struggling with a serious medical issue.
In July, 11-year-old Nancy Drake of Sesser was diagnosed with Stage II cancer in the form of an inoperable brain tumor. She begins chemotherapy next week and the family is faced with escalating medical and travel expenses.
The Woodlawn Christian Church recently raised $1,500 for the Drake family as part of its Vacation Bible School's annual mission to help others. This year, the school had well over 120 students ages pre-school to eighth grade.
Church officials agreed to match whatever students raised up to $500, and the students came up with $1,000, which is the most amount of money students have raised for a mission.
“Our students really took it to heart,” said Michael Crider, connections minister at Woodlawn Christian Church. “We just thought this was worthwhile.”
Nancy Drake is the daughter of Eric Drake, pastor of the Hazel Dell Free Will Baptist Church in Sesser. Eric Drake is also the character coach for the Sesser-Valier/Woodlawn Waltonville football team.
Crider said helping the Drake family fit in nicely with the Vacation Bible School's annual mission. Previous years' missions have raised money for the Lifeboat Alliance organization and for Joplin, Mo., tornado victims.
“Her dad's a coach and a preacher,” Crider said of Nancy Drake. “This is an 11-year-old girl who is the same age as the Vacation Bible School students with the same beliefs. There's a lot of natural connection there.”
Fundraising efforts are ongoing for the Drake family and the campaign is known as “Team Nancy.”
Eric Drake said the fundraising began almost immediately after his daughter was diagnosed. The support his family has received has been a godsend, he said.
“We definitely want everyone to know how grateful we are and how blown away we are by the outpouring of love from the community,” Eric said. “Just people we've never even met have sent cards and gifts. It's very overwhelming.”
Eric's daughter only had a few minor symptoms prior to her diagnosis.
Her mother, Kerry, mentioned the symptoms to a doctor during a routine school physical for Nancy and the doctor scheduled an MRI. The MRI detected the tumor, which is inoperable.
“She's very witty, very outgoing,” Eric said of his daughter. “A lot of people love her.”
Nancy will receive her first round of weekly chemotherapy Monday.
The family will have to take Nancy to St. Louis once a week for chemotherapy and twice a week to Mt. Vernon to have her blood drawn. This will result in major travel expenses.
Despite the hardships ahead, though, Eric said his family remains optimistic.
“With the community's support and our church's support and knowing God's got control of all this, we're doing good,” Eric said.
The Drakes have four children – Nancy, Bailee, Luke, and Baxton.
More information on the Team Nancy campaign can be found on Facebook.