Star Wars-themed shirts emblazoned with “Spencer’s Sarcoma Warriors” are popping up all over Kyrene Altadeña Middle School.
Students are selling the shirts and matching rubber bracelets to benefit Spencer Shores, a 6-year-old student at Kyrene de la Estrella Elementary School who was diagnosed with Ewing’s Sarcoma when he was 4. He’s a boy most of the middle school students have never even met.
Spencer’s case is unusual because, while Sarcoma is usually found in the bones, this cancer is in the soft issue around his eye. He’s one of nine people known to have had Sarcoma in this location, said April Shores, Spencer’s mother.
And even more puzzling, the cancer has recently returned to nearly the same spot.
“We were just 17 days of him being cancer free for a year, and we noticed his eye swelling, which is where it was in the first place,” Shores said.
That story touched Nikki Ramirez, a 13-year-old student at Altadeña. One of Nikki’s good friends is Spencer’s neighbor, and she got to know the family hanging out at their house with her friend and her friend’s younger brother.
Nikki describes Spencer as an energetic, active kid.
“He’s so strong,” Nikki said. “I would feel bad for myself. But he just keeps going. It’s amazing.”
Nikki and her friends started by setting up a lemonade stand for Spencer’s benefit. But when Nikki found out Spencer’s parents had designed T-shirts and bracelets to benefit him, she wanted to help.
She enlisted her classmates in a seventh-grade service club to sell the shirts. The club has about 30 students and has previously taken on efforts like collecting 500 stuffed animals to send to child crisis groups in Arizona and Mexico, said Cindy Paul, the teacher who oversees the group.
The students also put up a display featuring Spencer’s story and pictures. Reading Spencer’s story has prompted students to stop complaining about the little things they have to deal with, said Carly Feldman, Nikki’s classmate.
“The minute they saw it, they felt so bad,” Carly said. “You could see it in their eyes.”
The girls have raised $310 over the course of a few weeks selling the shirts and bracelets to their classmates. Nikki wasn’t sure exactly how many of each they had sold, but said the shirts are $15 and the bracelets are $5.
“I really wanted to go big. Hopefully it can go through the whole school,” Nikki said. “(Spencer’s) a really good kid. There’s so much he’s going through.”
April Shores said it was pretty amazing that Nikki and her classmates have been able to raise hundreds of dollars on their own. They’ve also managed to get Spencer’s name out there.
“It’s amazing. It’s so funny. We ran into a boy who goes to their school and we had the shirts on. And he said, ‘What is this?’ I’ve seen those shirts all over my school,’” she said.
The Shores have appreciated all the support they’ve received from the community. They’ve sold about 500 shirts and 700 wristbands so far, said Spencer’s dad, Mike Shores. They’ve also benefited from multiple fundraising efforts at God’s Garden preschool, bake sales put on by multiple organizations and an upcoming golf tournament scheduled for May 22.
“Good things come out of all situations,” April Shores said. “And unfortunately, we’ve been put in a pretty (bad) situation. But people reach out when you need it.”
For more information on Spencer, visit his CaringBridge website at www.caringbridge.org/visit/spencershores. For more information on the golf tournament, e-mail Mark Honaker at firstname.lastname@example.org.