BrAva 5K/Family Fun Day Saturday

There may be rain in the forecast for Saturday, but that won’t stop the activities for the third annual BrAva 5K/Family Fun Day – or the need for money to combat childhood cancer and help the families facing it.

“We are planning on doing this rain or shine,” said Waterford resident Traci Nichols, whose daughter, Ava, was the inspiration for half of the organization’s name. “I’m hoping that people will still come out. … The kids still need the money.”

Ava passed away in March 2012, nearly two years after being diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor, but her name and memory live on through the organization.

Its third 5K run and walk starts at 10 a.m. Saturday at Masonic Park in Devola, with registration beginning at 8. The entry fee is $25, and once the race is over, a slate of family activities will continue the fun and the fundraising, with proceeds being divided between CureSearch, which funds research specifically aimed at children’s cancer, and providing financial assistance to three local families whose children have been diagnosed with cancer.

“We’ve got more than we’ve ever had this year,” Nichols said.

New additions include a petting zoo, clowns and a silent auction to go along with the country store, inflatables, face-painting and a train ride provided by the Devola Volunteer Fire Company, said Desni Crock, whose daughter Bridget, a cancer survivor, is the other half of the BrAva name. There will also be music provided by the Good Old Boys BrAva Band, “a conglomeration of local musicians who are just coming together and volunteering their time and jamming for a good cause,” Crock said.

The two previous walks have drawn about 250 people each year, with even more attending the activities afterward, Crock said. The events, held in September because it is National Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, and other fundraisers have brought in more than $20,000.

The group also tries to support families in ways beyond the financial, Crock said. They help advertise and volunteer at other fundraisers for children undergoing treatment for cancer and offer moral support and the presence of someone to talk to who knows what the family is facing.

“It’s not until you start talking with the other parents of kids with cancer that you really understand, ‘OK, I’m not alone,'” Crock said.

Crock is passionate about the cause of childhood cancer not only because of her own experience, but due to what she sees as a lack of emphasis on solving the problem.

“Only 4 percent of all (government) money for research toward cancer goes toward childhood cancer,” she said. “That’s just not acceptable. I mean, we’re talking about the No. 1 disease killer of … our kids.”

According to CureSearch, just two drugs have been specifically developed for childhood cancer in the last 25 years. In most cases, children are given the same medications developed for adults, which can result in significant side effects, including secondary cancers.

Crock said she’s not surprised by how much BrAva has accomplished in its short existence, because the local community always supports people in need.

“We finally have a bunch of parents that are willing to say, ‘Look, we need help.’ And the community is rallying around us,” she said.

Nichols said she’s thrilled with the success of BrAva and will be back this year working the country store. Although she’s looking forward to the weekend, she also knows there will be difficult moments, like when they honor the survivors prior to the start of the 5K.

“Last year, standing there by myself (without Ava) was very hard, and it’s going to be the same way this year,” Nichols said. “Luckily for me, I’m very busy throughout the rest of the day.”