By: Jennifer Friesen
When a classroom of Grade 6 students received an assignment last fall to fundraise for a cause of their choosing, best friends Brayden Kenly and Carson Weiss knew what to do next.
“As soon as I heard what the project was about, I knew that I had to do something to help my mom,” says Brayden.
Brayden’s mom, Trish Kenly, was diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer in 2019. She noticed a lump while doing an at-home exam and, within one month, had a lumpectomy. Further testing revealed the cancer had metastasized to her spine. The tumour on her spine can’t be removed due to its location, so Trish underwent radiation at the Tom Baker Cancer Centre and continues treatments to this day.
“When Brayden said he wanted to [fundraise for] the Alberta Cancer Foundation for his mom, I knew it was a good idea,” says Carson. “Because I wanted to help her and other people that have cancer.”
The assignment’s goal was to raise funds or awareness for a cause. The duo, who were both 11 at the time, decided to support the OWN.CANCER campaign and sold cake pops and candy at school to fundraise. The project culminated in the Take Action Fair on April 20, an annual event at their school and part of the assignment.
“Brayden told me they were doing a Take Action Fair, but he didn’t really tell me what they had decided,” says Trish. It wasn’t until she read his mission statement that she learned he chose to fundraise for the OWN.CANCER campaign as a way to support her.
“I was just so overwhelmed and proud that he would think of somebody like me, and that I could be an inspiration to him,” she says.
The boys’ initial goal was to raise $100, which was met within the first hour of the sale. They kept upping their goal from $500 to $1,000 and eventually $2,500. By the end of the two-week-long event, they sold all 200 cake pops Trish had made and Brayden had decorated, along with countless bags of candy the boys made together. They also had a booth set up with information on OWN.CANCER’s mission, a QR code linking to their website for direct donations and they wore custom T-shirts designed by Carson’s mom, Lisa Weiss. By the end of the project, they raised a total of $2,989.
“It was really exciting,” says Carson. “I didn’t think we would make that much.”
Lisa is a registered nurse who started her career in the oncology hematology unit and says she “can’t be more proud” of the two of them and their work for the new cancer centre.
“On top of what I’ve seen Trish go through, my mom and Carson’s great-grandmother have cancer,” says Lisa. “Watching their experiences, as well as being on the flip side where it was my job to care for these patients, you really realize the importance of having these world-class facilities to help them in their healing and their treatment.”
Now both 12, Brayden and Carson reflect on the support from their classmates, teachers and family, and say they’re excited to see what they’ve accomplished.
“I enjoyed this project so much,” says Brayden. “It’s crazy that some day I’m going to get to say that I helped this new cancer centre come to life.”
The OWN.CANCER campaign for the Arthur J.E. Child Comprehensive Cancer Centre was launched in 2021 by the University of Calgary, Alberta Cancer Foundation and Alberta Health Services. The $250-million fundraising goal supports improved research, treatment and equipment for the Arthur Child, which is set to open next year.