CANTON Zachary W. Hamiltons fluorescent yellow hat with a yellow-and-orange mohawk could be spotted easily among the crowds of people who attended a fundraiser for the 13-year-old at St. Lawrence Universitys Newell Field House on Saturday afternoon.
The universitys Center for Civic Engagement hosts its Kick It for a Cause event each year to raise money for a good cause. This year, Zachary was the cause.
Zachary has been battling cancer for nearly half his life. He was diagnosed with neuroblastomaa cancer most often found in young childrenwhen he was 8 years old. After chemotherapy, the cancer was beat, but it returned in 2011. When he beat it a second time, he and his family were relieved the fight was over until last December, when it returned again.
Zacharys chemotherapy treatments in Syracuse and surgeries, radiation and scans in New York City not only have become routine for the Hamiltons, but have caused financial stress, especially now that theyre living on one income.
Zacharys father, William G., works for the St. Lawrence County Department of Social Services, and his health insurance plan contributes to the hospital bills. Medicaid helps with covering medication costs, and Zacharys grandparents help out with finances as well.
The Jules of Life Foundation, which provides financial support to St. Lawrence County families dealing with childhood cancer, helped with Zacharys first fight with the disease. Compass to Care Childhood Cancer Foundation, based in Chicago, also contributed to the Hamiltons gas and food expenses.
The Center for Civic Engagement announced that Zachary would be the beneficiary of the noon to 4 p.m. Saturday event, before finding out the cancer had returned a third time.
When the Hamiltons told the center that Zacharys cancer was back, the organization started an additional fundraiser called Miles for Zachary, and raised $3,200, which it gave to the Hamiltons for gas, housing and other expenses when they travel for his treatments.
Julie L. Johnson, logistics and events coordinator for the center, said the goal for the four-hour event was $5,000.
The Kick It for a Cause fundraiser on Saturday included Zumba, Tabata and kickboxing classes as well as many other games and workshops for children such as Can Jam, four square, nail and face painting, pie tossing and tie-dying. The center also sold Zach the Fighter tank tops at the door.
Mrs. Johnson said several local businesses cosponsored the event.
Its overwhelming, said Zacharys mother, Rebecca L. Hamilton. Its just very humbling to see so many people wanting to help him out. Were just so grateful.
Zachary returned home Thursday from a trip to New York City for radiation. He is seeing the light at the end of the tunnel after doctors told him the cancer was gone.
He knocked it out in the first round of chemo this time, Mrs. Hamilton said.
Unlike his two previous battles, Zachary wont need surgery this time around, according to his mother.
He still needs to undergo two rounds of low-dose chemo in Syracuse and then will return to New York City for another scan. From there, doctors will decide what type of antibody therapy he will need.
Its great to know that hes not feeling sick anymore. Hes gained weight and his hairs growing back. His body is still responding to the treatment, Mrs. Hamilton said. The hardest part is constantly worrying about it coming back.
For Zachary, the hardest part is not being home with all of his animals and friends, he said.
Mrs. Hamilton said another struggle for Zachary was losing his hair for the third time, but their family, friends, community and even complete strangers have stepped in to help comfort him with hats.
Mrs. Hamilton started a Facebook page called Zach the Fighter, where she asked people to send hats for Zachary.
Every time hell get a little package, he knows its a hat and he loves them, she said. A lot of times theyre from people we dont even know.
Mrs. Hamilton said by now he has more than 30 hats.
Theres too many to count, Zachary said.