Sitting on a wooden bench in the Foote Avenue Quality Markets store, the sounds of price scanners ringing in the background, Barb Suckow takes a moment to collect herself.
It's been three years since her son, Brian, lost his battle with osteosarcoma, an aggressive form of bone cancer, at the age of 13.
In this most unlikely of places, Mrs. Suckow and Kim Malarkey are talking about the need for more money for childhood cancer research and the need for doctors to tackle the challenge of finding a cure.
Kim Malarkey and Barb Suckow look on as Ryan Malarkey hands a dollar to Steve Perroski, manager of the Foote Avenue Quality Markets.
P-J photo by John Whittaker
As it turns out, Brian Suckow wanted to be one of those doctors.
''He started out despising hospitals,'' Mrs. Suckow said. ''As his treatment progressed, he said he wanted to be a doctor. Then, he wanted to be a cancer doctor at Roswell, so other kids wouldn't have to go through what he was going through.''
Brian Suckow was 11 when he slid into second base during a Little League game. When he got up to dust himself off, he could hardly walk. After a trip to the doctor's office and several tests, doctors told the Suckows their son had osteosarcoma, a form of bone cancer.
After chemotherapy treatments, doctors were optimistic the cancer hadn't spread past Brian's leg. During a later check-up, however, doctors found signs of tumors on Brian's lungs. Brian died at the age of 13.
Each year, Mrs. Suckow organizes blood drives in the area as a way to remember her son, who needed blood transfusions as part of his cancer treatment. And, the Suckows started a scholarship fund.
''Sometimes, when you lose a child, you feel like you have to do something,'' Mrs. Suckow said.
On Thursday, she made her way to Quality Markets to help promote the Foote Avenue store's second Alex's Lemonade Stand fundraiser. Standing with Mrs. Suckow, Mrs. Malarkey watched her son, Ryan, 5, hand over the first dollar in the fundraiser to Steve Perroski, manager of the Foote Avenue Quality Markets. After raising $3,400 selling the lemons last year, Perroski convinced the store's corporate owner, Penn Traffic, to expand the fundraiser to each of its 97 stores.
The chain's stores, located in New York, Pennsylvania, Vermont and New Hampshire, will sell paper lemons for $1 each through July 12. All proceeds from the sale will be given to the Alex's Lemonade Stand Foundation, a non-profit organization that pays for childhood cancer research.
''I give a lot of credit to Steve Perroski,'' Mrs. Malarkey said. ''He heard about Ryan's story and he heard about Alex Scott's story and they did a paper lemon sale last year and raised $3,400. I think he was just so touched by the cause that he took it to Penn Traffic's corporate headquarters in Syracuse and convinced them to have it at all 97 Penn Traffic grocery stores. If all the stores only raise a few hundred dollars (each), we could raise $50,000 for the foundation.''
No Evidence Of Disease
Ryan Malarkey has shown no evidence of disease for the last 18 months. He and his parents still make trips to New York City every three months so doctors at the Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center can be sure Ryan's neuroblastoma hasn't reappeared.
While their son's cancer hasn't reappeared on scans for the last 18 months, they still hear stories like that of Marissa Monroe, a 3-year-old from Massachusetts who died in mid-June after a neuroblastoma relapse, or Emily Adamson, another child the Malarkeys met in their travels, who died in May, or even the story told so tearfully by Barb Suckow.
The Malarkeys will hold their second Alex's Lemonade Stand from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, July 19, at their 188 W. Virginia Boulevard home. A tent will be set up in the driveway, children's games will be played near the Malarkeys' garage, and the Malarkeys' plan a bake sale and, of course, to sell glasses of lemonade.
''I just wanted people to be aware that there are other families and children in the Jamestown area who have cancer, and there are kids who have lost their battle,'' Mrs. Malarkey said. ''That's why we're doing this. We don't want parents to have to suffer the loss of a child to a disease that really has to be treated with more money for research.''