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North Adams Recognizes Child Cancer Month, Sandy Hook Promise
By Tammy Daniels, iBerkshires Staff
01:13AM / Tuesday, September 18, 2018
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Superintendent Barbara Malkas tells the City Council last week about the Sandy Hook Promise activities taking place in the schools next week to address student social isolation and prevent bullying.


Kathy Arabia explains some of the activities the AYJ Fund is involved in the fight against a deadly childhood cancer. 
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The city is recognizing initiatives for children this month that are designed to raise awareness of childhood cancer and the effects of bullying. 
 
Mayor Thomas Bernard read two proclamations last Tuesday recognizing September as Childhood Cancer Awareness Month and the city's participation in a weeklong program from the Sandy Hook Promise, a gun-violence prevention movement built on the 2012 mass shooting at the Connecticut elementary school.  
 
Go Gold for Kids With Cancer in September is a national effort by the American Childhood Cancer Organization to raise awareness of the effects of cancer on children. Joined by Kathy and Joseph Arabia, Bernard read off some of the statistics for children suffering from cancer. 
 
Some 43 children are diagnosed with cancer every day in the United States, and cancer is the leading cause of disease-related death for children. More than 40,000 children are treated for cancer every year and while the survival rate for most cancers is now high, the effects of the treatment can cause chronic or life-threatening problems when they get older. Yet only about 4 percent of federal funding goes toward childhood cancer.
 
The Arabias established the AYJ Fund in memory of their daughter Anna Yan Ji Arabia, who died at age 13 from gliomatosis cerebri, a deadly brain cancer with a survival rate of less than 1 percent. Their efforts have raised awareness of the disease and funds toward research at Dana Farber Cancer Institute. 
 
"It is a type of cancer that still does not have a cure but we're fighting every day to make a difference and we so greatly appreciate the fight that this community is in with us," Kathy Arabia said. "We have received an unbelievable amount of support and we're grateful for that every day."
 
New discoveries are happening all the time, she said, and we need continue to raise the survival success rate.
 
Among the events happening this month, are the upside-down trees at Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art being lighted up in gold and an AYJ Fund corn hole tournament at the Armory on Saturday, Sept. 29, to raise $10,000 to support local children with cancer and research. To participate or sponsor the tournament, contact the Arabias at 413-662-2903, 413-652-1602 or www.AYJFund.org.
 
Sandy Hook Promise "has identified social isolation defined as the overwhelming feeling of being left out, lonely or treated like you are invisible as a risk factor associated with violent, suicidal behavior," read the mayor, and such behavior can lead young people to become victims of bullying, violence and depression.
 
The organization has established a "Start With Hello" curriculum for Grades 6 through 12 "to reach out to those who may be in chronic social isolation and to create a culture of inclusion."
 
The North Adams Public Schools will participate in Start with Hello Week from Sept. 24-28. Superintendent Barbara Malkas said it was an opportunity for the entire community to really make an effort to reduce social isolation. 
 
"We have a week of activities planned and we're hoping all of you ... will get involved and join with us," she said. 
 
On Monday, Sept. 24, students will be encouraged to wear green and the schools will begin the program. The high school, for example, will have a photo booth for students to have their photos taken with a Start With Hello message. Tuesday, Sept. 25, is the annual Walk to School Day in the elementary schools and at Drury High School, members of the Student Council will welcome their peers entering the building. 
 
On Wednesday, Sept. 25, will be "nobody eats alone day" with a focus on ensuring no one is isolated during lunchtime. Thursday, Sept. 27, is Compliment Day. Rather than finding something to criticize, students will be encouraged to say something nice. 
 
"I think that goes a long way to building a very positive community," Malkas said.   
 
The school system is also looking for community members to sign up to be at the schools on the morning of Friday, 
Sept. 28, she said, "to welcome our students as they come into the building that day so that they know that Start With Hello is not just an expectation for how children interact with each other but for how adults interact with each other as well." 
 
"I think this is a great opportunity for the North Adams Public Schools to participate in a nationwide event and help to reduce the incidents of isolation and bullying that we want to make sure that no child has to experience," the superintendent said. 
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