SAYRE — Rural communities are often praised for banding together in times of need — one Bradford County family has led the way in uniting local forces for families of children battling cancer after having overcome it themselves.
Team CORAgeous is a group formed in 2017 by family and friends of Troy High School student Cora Weldy that served as a support system for her as she overcame Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.
With Weldy now recovered, the group has branched out to come alongside other area families fighting child cancer diagnoses with both financial and emotional encouragement — most recently the family of 8-year-old Seeley Carlin.
Upon hearing of a fundraiser for Carlin through Athens Area School District, Tracey Weldy, Team CORAgeous organizer and mother of Cora quickly contacted Carlin’s parents and found that they were in need of a reliable vehicle to transport him to treatments in Danville.
Tracey Weldy took to Team CORAgeous’s Facebook page and within six days raised $3,010 with the help of 66 donors.
With the money, the group purchased two reliable vehicles for the family to utilize as one parent continues to work and the other transports Seeley to medical treatments that have them making trips to Danville sometimes every day.
With mechanics donating time to fix any needs on the Carlin’s new cars, the money raised also paid for vehicle registrations, some extra money for the family and special financial gifts were given that totaled $125 in gas cards.
“We were shocked,” said Seeley’s dad Stephen Carlin, explaining that the gifts allow him to focus fully on taking care of Seeley.
Stephen, as well as Kelly Carlin, Seeley’s mom, thanked everyone involved with providing the gifts with tearful eyes, saying that individuals have gone above and beyond helping them even assisting in paying their rent.
Tracey Weldy expressed her gratitude to all who participated in helping the Carlins as well, relating with the challenges of taking care of “normal” financial tasks while caring for a child battling cancer.
“You’re scared, I mean on every level, and it’s not a feeling that anyone should have to go through, and so I think it’s great that other people are recognizing it and they are helping people get through this,” Tracey Weldy stated. “I want to cry with her, it’s overwhelming...it’s like Christmas! It’s overwhelming that so many people can come together and do it so quickly and take care of these needs.”
Moments of tearful hugs and knowing support have become all too normal for members of Team CORAgeous as they have been a part in assisting three local families overcome childhood cancer since December.
Tracey Weldy shared that until 2018 the Team CORAgeous Facebook page had mainly been used to provide updates on Cora, but when members learned of Canton High School’s Timmy Ward being diagnosed with the same cancer Cora overcame they “knew it was an opportunity to give back” and turned the page into an avenue of raising funds for his family.
“The outpouring support we received was amazing. So many of our team members jumped in to help us...after Cora saw the response for Timmy she came to us and said she wanted to make (sure) we help all kids in our area diagnosed with cancer. She wanted to use Team CORAgeous Facebook page to help bring awareness to these other children,” Tracey Weldy explained.
Next, Team CORAgeous learned of Ariah Cooke, a kindergartener from Ulster who was diagnosed with brain cancer and again leapt into action as Cora created an Amazon wish list for Cooke that was completely provided by donors within moments of being posted.
“Cora and Ariah have become friends through all of this and I think it’s a relationship that’s needed for both (of) them,” Tracey Weldy said. “We like to keep everybody updated on Timmy and Ariah’s journey because our team is their team.”
Tracey Weldy noted that all the work to raise support is made worth it when she is able to see the positive impact it has on the families receiving it.
“I believe it’s important for the child and the family to know if they have the support of others going through this,” she stated. “That they have people there ready to hold their hand and walk with them...we are their army.”
“We are so thankful for everybody who helps us to accomplish these things because without them we couldn’t do this. I’m still crying today over everything,” she said referring to Team CORAgeous’s contribution to the Carlin family. “I was just truly overcome with emotion for the family. I know what it’s like to be them and to have this response from your community.”
While Tracey Weldy stated that she hopes Team CORAgeous’s work slows down with hopefully no more diagnoses, she shared that the team plans to continue to support local families, possibly in a more official context in the future.