Helping halos

Senior founds club inspired by mom’s cancer

Kaitlyn Hughes
Senior Alexa Navinsky’s mom was diagnosed with stage three colon cancer in the fall of her junior year. After her mom finished chemo, Alexa focused her attention on bringing joy to children who have faced situations similar to her mom’s.

Danay Navinsky had been feeling a pain in her stomach for a couple of weeks, so her family, including daughter senior Alexa Navinksy, decided it was time to go to the hospital. They waited in the room for a diagnosis. After several tests, the doctor announced that it was very likely that Alexa’s mom had cancer.

Her dad began to silently cry. Her dad never cried, and it hit Alexa that she could really lose her mom.

Alexa’s mom grabbed her husband’s hand and assured him it would be okay.

“We’re going to be together forever. That’s what we promised when we got married,” she said through teary eyes.

It was too much for Alexa.

She watched her parents grapple with the word cancer as she separated herself from the scene.

• • •

As Alexa watched her mom battle the disease for the majority of her junior year, it felt too real and like a dream at the same time.

“It was just a very fast process,” Alexa said. “Just two days after she had been in the hospital, she got surgery…. By the time she woke up from the haze, everything had changed. And seeing her go through that was a struggle.”

Alexa didn’t know how to deal with all the pain her family was going through, so she detached herself and stayed away. If anyone asked her how her mother was, she would half-heartedly reply that “it’s fine, she’ll be fine.”

It wasn’t until after her mom was in remission that she realized she hadn’t been completely involved in supporting her family during the treatments. But her mom’s battle with the disease didn’t stop after chemo.

Since last October, so much has changed for Alexa’s mom and her family.

“She’ll never be able to taste again…. I was talking to some parents of kids with cancer, and they were saying that their kids lost all their teeth and might never get them again,” Alexa said.

She knew that she wanted to help families going through the same thing she was, watching their loved ones battle and recover from a scary diagnoses.

Her thoughts turned to children, and she realized that the pain her mother faced is normal to many cancer patients. Thinking that a kid could have cancer so young was difficult for Alexa.

Children miss out on sports and other activities a lot of their friends do to go to their doctor visits. She knew that she wanted to help distract kids from their treatments.

I want them to have as much happiness as possible because it’s going to be a hard road.”

— Alexa Navinsky, 12

Alexa is now passionate about spreading happiness to children, especially at hospitals where the journeys the patients are on can seem bleak. Her focus is on the kids, but she also wants to bring awareness to the after-effects of cancer. Because she can’t change the consequences, Alexa wants to help improve the attitude surrounding the treatments.

“I want them to have as much happiness as possible because it’s going to be a hard road,” Alexa said.

Alexa began to develop an idea for a club that visits children’s hospitals monthly to cheer up the patients and do crafts with them. They want to do simple yet fun activities, like making butterflies from pipe cleaners and spoons. After her mom was cleared of cancer in March, Alexa started putting the pieces together and contacting hospitals.

Starting an organization seemed out of reach at first. Most children’s hospitals don’t allow volunteers under 18. She decided that if she could finish the paperwork and find enough hospitals willing to welcome students to volunteers, she would go through with the club. Over the summer, several hospitals agreed to work with them. After finding a teacher sponsor and a board of students to help organize the group, all that was left was the name.

“We wanted it to be related to sickness, but not so much cancer,” Alexa said. She thought halos was such a perfect way to represent the innocence in children’s lives. They named the organization Helping Halos and have since been meeting and creating plans for their activities.

The club had a booth at the home-coming carnival where they interacted with kids, and multiple hospital visits have been scheduled. However, Helping Halos needs money to fund the cost of crafts for groups of 30 to 100 patients and transportation of up to 30 students. To offset the cost of visiting the children, they have set up a GoFundMe.

Club secretary Tara Sachar says that Helping Halos wants to give children the chance to get involved with crafts around the holidays. While some of their friends are trick or treating, patients may be stuck at the hospital for Halloween.

“They need someone to guide them or… make them think they aren’t only cancer,” Tara said.

Alexa’s goal is to give the kids the skills to deal with their diagnoses and teach the members of Helping Halos that cancer is so much more than a battle with chemo. Even though she can’t help the kids for a lifetime, she wants to impact them in the short amount of time she has at the hospitals, if only for one or two hours.

“The journey starts here, but I don’t want it to end there. I want everyone to go further and really see what these people are going through,” Alexa said.