© Herald photo by Jodi Schellenberg
Bailey Oleksyn was only six when her father died of osteosarcoma, the same cancer that killed Terry Fox. Fifteen-year-old Oleksyn is selling bracelets to raise money for cancer research, to help find an end to the horrible disease.
When Bailey Oleksyn was a child something devastating happened to her family -- her father was diagnosed with the same type of cancer as Terry Fox -- osteosarcoma.
Oleksyn was a heartbroken six-year-old when he father died, but instead of falling to pieces, she turned to arts and crafts.
“As a six-year-old, my way of coping was crafting,” she said. “I started to make bracelets and try to beat the cancer by selling them.”
The bracelets were half white beads, half pink beads with a “big, wonky” bead in the centre.
“It symbolized the white blood cells and red blood cells and that it only takes one cell to go wrong,” Oleksyn said. “My friends and I, we all got together and beaded these and did all that. It was really successful for being a six year old.”
Oleksyn sold the bracelets, donated the funds she raised to the Terry Fox Foundation. Looking back, both Oleksyn and her mother, Marilyn, said she was devastated her bracelets didn’t stop cancer.
“I was quite upset because all my efforts didn’t cure cancer,” Oleksyn said.
The project was put on the back burner until recently, when Oleksyn, now 15, decided to start up a new campaign to help the fight against cancer.
“Years have passed since then and I want to do it again, so I am eager to do it for a second time,” Oleksyn said. “The campaign is called ‘Wear It On Your Sleeve.’”
Joining the fight against cancer is important to Oleksyn. She said cancer is a disease that has an effect on everyone. “I guess we all have someone who has passed away from cancer, so we wear our bracelets with our memories on us,” Oleksyn said. “It is a way to remember they are with us and everything we experienced with them.”
The new bracelets are a “pimped up version or teenage version of where she started,” Marilyn said.
The bracelets are different colours, representing different types of cancer. Instead of being hand beaded by Oleksyn, they are a braided material with a ribbon charm added. She orders the bracelets and charms, putting them together herself.
“Last time, she was little and when the bracelets ran out, the campaign was done,” Marilyn said. “I don’t think she thought of it as a campaign. Now, she has an idea of a campaign. This time, it doesn’t have to end as readily. As long as she is still willing and they keep selling it doesn’t have a distinct end this time.”
The bracelets are going faster than Oleksyn expected.
They have only been out for just over a week and Oleksyn has already had to order more supplies.
“I have been getting really good results and feedback from selling them,” Oleksyn said.
She hopes to expand to smaller communities, especially her father’s hometown of Tisdale, in the future. The Terry Fox Run is an excellent way to support cancer research, Oleksyn said, which is why she chose to donate the proceeds of this batch of bracelets.
“You don’t chose to have it, it just happens,” Oleksyn said. “So it could happen to anyone. I think it is important to fight back because what would happen if it happened to you or what would happen if it happened to one of your friends? You want to recognize that it is there and to finish it and cure it to help out your community and the members in it.”
Vern Hodgins, one of the Prince Albert Terry Fox Run organizers, said seeing Oleksyn’s passion is amazing.
“I’m a retired teacher and the example that Terry Fox set, you could teach oodles of lessons like handicapped people trying their best, young people having a dream and goals, and never giving up on a dream,” Hodgins said. “I think it is fantastic that a young person is doing something like this to help with the Terry Fox run.”
Terry Fox is a huge inspiration and role model for everyone, Hodgins said. When he was teaching, Hodgins used Terry Fox as his example of a hero when teaching the children about inspiring people and would show them videos of his story.
“I still remember turning on the lights every time after I would show them and especially all the boys, pretending they weren’t crying,” Hodgins said.
Oleksyn wants more people to be aware of cancer and get involved in the fight against the dreadful disease.
“If everyone could help out and the more contributions we get, the quicker the bracelets will sell and the quicker we can help cure cancer,” Oleksyn said. “It is a $2 bracelet. It is all for cancer research. The end goal is to get rid of cancer.”
Oleksyn’s mother and Hodgins also want more people to donate.
“Research is what is going to change and get rid of this thing,” Marilyn said. “Every nickel, every penny adds up, whether it be a $2 bracelet or something else.” “It is hard to find a family that has never been touched by cancer,” Hodgins added. “Big strides have been made in lots of ways in cancer but there is still tons of research that needs to be done … (Oleksyn’s bracelets) will help, one step at a time, like Terry Fox.”
The 33rd annual Prince Albert Terry Fox Run will be held on Sept. 15. Registration for the run will start at 1 p.m. at the Harry Jerome Track. The Greg Sylvester Memorial Triathlon in support of the Terry Fox Run will start at 10 a.m. at the Frank Dunn Pool.
Oleksyn’s bracelets will be available at the Terry Fox Run on Sept. 15. She also has displays up at the Cornerstone Scotiabank, South Hill Dental, the Medicine Shoppe, Medi-Center Pharmacy and will be available at Dr. Java’s and Calypso Bay hopefully down the road.