BETHEL — Two local families fighting childhood cancer each received a check for $1,500 from the nonprofit Team Hailey’s Hugs.

The organization was created by the family of Hailey Steward, 9, who is battling leukemia.

It held a walk-athon Sept. 17 in Bethel to raise money for Cody Bean and Brady Wakefield, two young boys fighting their own battle with cancer.

The first check was presented to Cody Bean and his family Wednesday afternoon on the Bethel Common, and the second check was presented to Brady Wakefield and his family Thursday morning at the Maine Children’s Cancer Program in Scarborough, where Brady is receiving treatment.

Tabaitha Steward, Hailey’s mother, said it felt good to see the families receive the checks, especially after a slightly disappointing turnout at the fundraiser Saturday.

“In such a small town, we expected more people to come out and support these families. Too often these kids are isolated (due to being sick) and so seeing laughter and feeling positive energy — it’s what gets them though,” Steward said. “People don’t understand that whatever money we raise under Team Hailey’s Hugs goes directly to help families, and I want them to know that.”

The Steward family is planning another walk for Aug. 20, 2017. They’re brainstorming more fundraising ideas, not only to keep Hailey positive, but other local kids as well.

“We have this idea for a fundraiser called Butterfly Kisses, where people can purchase their own live butterfly in memory of someone, and we’ll set a date for all the butterflies to be released,” Steward. said

Butterflies are the mascot of the Steward family, and their love of the fluttering insect began before Hailey was born.

“When I was pregnant with Hailey, she was supposed to be a boy, and I kept telling her father I knew she was a girl, and so I burned a CD with the song ‘Butterfly Kisses’ and played it the night Hailey was born,” Steward said.

Hailey is also a butterfly, Steward said, and she’s reminded of the cycle of a butterfly when she’s going through a particularly rough treatment.

“I tell her before she was diagnosed with cancer at 5 years old, she was a caterpillar,” Steward said. “Then the doctors needed to put her in a cocoon to make her feel better, and when she went into remission, she became a butterfly.”

Since the cancer came back and Hailey must again enter her cocoon, Steward said, “I guess her colors just need to be a little brighter.”

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