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Pajama event to help cancer organization

W.W. Robinson Elementary first county school to participate in pupil fundraising campaign

By Kaitlin Mayhew -- kmayhew@nvdaily.com

WOODSTOCK -- Ever since Alex Burner was diagnosed with cancer in 2003, his family's life has been irrevocably entwined with the disease.

Today, after two brain surgeries, various treatments, and one recurrence in 2005, Alex, 11, is a healthy fifth-grader at W.W. Robinson Elementary School.

On Friday, his school will be the first in the county to participate in the American Childhood Cancer Organization's "PJammin" fundraiser.

Vicki Burner, Alex's mother, said she contacted all nine public schools in the county about participating in the fundraiser.

She said that most of them expressed interest in participating at some point during the year.

The event entails a period of fundraising -- in W.W. Robinson's case, pupils collected money in jars stationed in each classroom for two weeks.

At the end of those two weeks, the pupils can wear pajamas to school.

"[The pajamas] signify all the children that are fighting cancer are in their pajamas all the time," Vicki Burner said. "I think everybody's pretty excited about it because it's fun to wear pajamas to school."

Sherry Arey, principal of W.W. Robinson Elementary School, said the goal was to raise at least $1,000 in the two weeks.

As of Tuesday, they had reached $953.43.

"It's just pennies, nickels, dimes, whatever the kids bring in," Arey said. "[The fundraiser] is a way to have all the kids come together in support of a cause in a way they can relate to. Pajamas are certainly something the kids can relate to."

The Burners have had a relationship specifically with ACCO since Alex had finished his a round of radiation in 2005.

"The ACCO came to us and asked us if we would allow them to photograph Alex," Vicki Burner said. "They were doing a worldwide awareness campaign for children's cancer."

The photos debuted in February 2006 in the form of a video essay.

Burner said the campaign focused on changing the types of treatments that are used on children to give them more targeted, up-to-date treatments.

"The newest treatments that the FDA approves are usually only approved for adults, and therefore children are today receiving the same treatment programs that were used in the 1970s," she said.

Alex did a segment on the morning announcements at school promoting the fundraiser.
"He's really excited," Vicki Burner said.

Besides this fundraiser for the ACCO, the Burners also participate in a series of Relay for Life fundraisers every year. Alex has his own team called "Alex's Warriors."

Vicki Burner said they raise about $6,000 every year. Their main event is a gospel bluegrass concert in Fort Valley.

"[Alex] is pretty well known in the county," Vicki Burner said. "[The concert] has gotten us $4,000 in one day before."

This year, the third annual concert will be on May 20.

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