C.J. Dube is an unlikely spokesman for cancer. The active five-year-old with the chubby cheeks likes pizza, Shrek, and play time just like any other child.
But while he was at Norris Elementary School last week he was working as an ambassador of sorts, raising awareness of cancer and the Pennies for Patients campaign that supports medical advancements through the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.
C.J. plays with a dinosaur at Norris Elementary.
C.J. helped illustrate the fact that cancer can strike children, but they can survive and even thrive.
Norris students were invited to become part of the solution by bringing in loose change to support education and research about leukemia, lymphoma and other cancers.
"I think it's important for children to get involved as early as they can with charity," said Kelley Dube of Evans, C.J.'s mom.
"We are pleased to come in and let children interview children," she said. Norris students got to talk with C.J. who arrived with his younger brother Matt who looked much like a miniature version of himself.
Norris students had several questions, including wanting to know which boy had been sick. They also asked what C.J. does for fun, what his favorite foods are, and "Is he going to die?"
Mrs. Dube explained that medical advances can cure cancer, and the coins they would bring in would help.
Children like C.J. play an important role in teaching compassion and educating others about cancer and the need for research, said Ashley Hilley, campaign manager for the Augusta Chapter of the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society who accompanied the Dubes to the school.
"We want to put a face to the mission, especially someone they can relate to age-wise," she said.
Kelley Dube of Evans holds her son, C.J., during the Norris visit.
C.J., who would be in kindergarten this year if he hadn't been sick, was diagnosed a year ago. He will receive treatment for three more years, then will be considered cured, Mrs. Dube explained.
Signs that C.J. was ill are hard to detect, except perhaps for his short buzz hairstyle which is a result of his hair just growing back after treatment. But in his family, C.J.'s hairstyle is typical. Little brother Matt, his dad Christopher and his grandfather all sport a buzz cut as a show of support for C.J.
And Norris students now know that can show support for C.J. too by bringing in some spare change.
"If everyone brought in 100 pennies, it would be such a start," Mrs. Dube said.