ROCHESTER, Minn. (FOX 47) -- September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. In lieu of that, a group of southern Minnesota residents who had been touched by the disease founded a new organization and a new event.
The group is called Lake City Childhood Cancer Awareness. This year marked the group's second annual walk but with COVID, fundraising has been difficult.
However, the event found sponsors and a way for people to safely gather in Patton Park to raise awareness about how childhood cancer almost every community, no matter how small.
"It's important for people to realize how rare childhood cancer is not. It's here in our community and the larger community as well," said Shanna Lunasin, founder of Childhood Cancer Community.
Cancer is something she knows about firsthand.
"I was 7. I knew I was sick but I didn't know how serious it is," Lunasin remembers. "I was fortunate because I treated the hospital like my home."
For others, the experience was different.
"I was diagnosed at 12 years old. I pretended I didn't have it," said Chloe McElmury, who beat thyroid cancer. "I just wanted to be a normal kid and live my life. I've been through a few recurrences. As of now, I've been a year without recurrences so that's good."
Another member of the Lake City area group remembers her sons struggle with the disease.
"He was missing out on all the fun stuff that all the kids get to do. It was hard on him but he has super supportive friends too," said Jessica Vold, member of the Lake City Area Childhood Cancer Awareness group.
Vold's son also had the support of Mayo Clinic doctors and the Rochester group Childhood Cancer Community, founded by Lunasin. She says the isolation kids with cancer feel is now something more people understand.
"I think COVID has been a good way for other people to empathize with what life is like for a childhood cancer family," she said. "They're always separate and living life day to day hoping someone stays healthy."
According to St. Jude's, more than 95 percent of childhood cancer survivors have significant treatment-related health issues.
"I'm 23 now," McElmury said. "So it's been half of my life fighting cancer."
"I'm just really hopeful that they realize that no child should have to fight cancer alone," said group member Jolene Carlson. "They need the support of everybody."
Lunasin's Childhood Cancer Community group is based in Rochester. It helps more than 200 families a year with resources and financial support.
The funds from today's Lake City walk go towards scholarships for cancer survivors, research and donation to families.