BETHEL — Team Hailey’s Hugs, a small, local nonprofit will host a Walk-A-Thon on Saturday, Sept. 17, at Telstar Middle/High School. Registration begins at 8 a.m and the walk starts at 9 a.m on the school track. The walk will benefit the two local families of Cody Bean and Brady Wakefield, who are battling childhood cancer.

Team Hailey’s Hugs began as one family trying to help out others going through the same struggle. When Hailey Steward, now 9, was diagnosed with leukemia at 5 years old, her family began to help with events to raise money for pediatric cancer organizations. Their first walk raised $5,000, which they donated to the Maine Children’s Cancer Program.

The Stewards decided to become a nonprofit in April 2016, “so whatever we can do will make a difference,” said Tabaitha Steward, Hailey’s mother.

Hailey is currently going through her second bout of treatment, fighting a disease the Stewards were told is very curable, and when Hailey beat it the first time, she had a 97 percent chance of never getting it again. But it came back, the exact same month she’d been diagnosed with it the first time. The cancer is now in her spinal fluid, so she’ll have to undergo radiation treatments in November.

Along with continuing to hold events and raise money to help others, Tabaitha Steward has an even bigger dream: to provide a sanctuary from cancer for one family at a time.

“My ultimate goal is to get a house or a cabin specifically for families where they can go have a weekend or week together with nothing to do with cancer,” she said. “With Hailey, it was so important for us to spend time as a family, but we didn’t get much. We’d provide all the food and everything, so all (the family) would have to do is go have fun and be together.” 

The registration fee for the walk is $25 for adults, $10 for students, and children 5 and under walk for free, as well as those who have gathered at least $100 in sponsors. Participants can walk for whatever distance they choose, and will each receive a Team Hailey’s Hugs bracelet. A few vendors will be on site, and T-shirts and hoodies stamped with Team Hailey’s Hugs will be for sale.  

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