Two-year-old Ayden Brown strutted across a red carpet while sporting a gold-colored tie and vest, eliciting some oohs and ahhs from the crowd gathered Saturday night at the Suncoast.
The dapper tot wasn’t trying to please the critics in Milan, New York or Paris.
His goal had far more significance.
Young Ayden and 10 other children whose lives are affected by cancer basked in the spotlight during a fashion show aimed at raising $60,000 for a costly, last-ditch treatment for the terminally ill boy.
“We wanted to find a way to get these kids out and make them feel special by doing something they might not get to do again,” Ayden’s mother, 34-year-old Lindsey Licari of Henderson, said shortly before the event, which also included an auction.
“I just hope that after tonight, people see the need to help families with sick children,” Licari said. “There are hundreds of kids in this valley fighting for their lives, and we can make a difference by providing some funds.”
Licari started a foundation last October known as Ayden’s Army of Angels as a way to collect money that will be distributed to families struggling to make ends meet while also caring for children with severe cases of cancer.
Licari knows the drill, having missed work in order to care for Ayden since he was diagnosed with an aggressive cancer in the lining of his lungs when he was just 13 months old. Often, she would have to choose between buying food or paying the household bills.
“These are problems that no one should have to think about,” Licari said.
Ayden’s stage 4 cancer, known as rhabdomyosarcoma, has since spread into his chest, surrounding his heart and moving toward his spine, Licari said.
Licari lived with her sister, Nicole Duran, in Southern California for more than a year as Ayden was treated at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles and Loma Linda University Medical Center.
“The idea that he doesn’t have a chance to live past 3 years old is just not an option for us,” Duran said. “We simply want to do what we can to save him.”
Money raised during the event held on Saturday will help pay for a proton radiation therapy that Licari said can only be completed in Germany because it’s deemed too dangerous by doctors in the United States.
The funds also will go toward purchasing diapers, bandages and snack bags for families with young children undergoing chemotherapy.
“A lot of times families don’t have the money for simple things because their time and money are tied up in getting treatment for their child,” Ayden’s godmother, Hassanah Abdullah of Jersey City, New Jersey, said. “We want to make sure they get help too.”
Donations and additional information about the organization’s services can be found at aydensarmyofangels.org.
Contact Art Marroquin at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0336. Follow @AMarroquin_LV on Twitter.
Rhabdomyosarcoma is a cancer made up of cells that normally develop in muscles, internal organs or the heart. About 3 percent of all childhood cancers are rhabdomyosarcoma, with roughly 350 new cases diagnosed annually in the United States. More than half of the cases are found in children younger than 10, and it’s more common in boys than girls.
Source: American Cancer Society