When Jordyn Boucher was given just weeks to live, her mother never imagined that only a few years later, her little girl would be doing pushups, hip-hop dancing, and boxing with dozens of other kids to raise money for cancer research.
But that's exactly what the 11-year-old girl from Brentwood, N.H., will be doing this Saturday when she takes the stage at Lowell Memorial Auditorium for "Fitness for a Cure," an annual fundraiser to support St. Jude Children's Research Hospital.
"I get chills watching her," says Fitness for a Cure founder Sherri Sarouf of North Andover. "I feel like I have the miracle kid on the team."
According to Jordyn's mother, Tracey Sukduang, her daughter is, indeed, a walking miracle. Jordyn had been fighting leukemia since she was 15 months old, enduring chemotherapy, a bone marrow transplant and several relapses. Then, in November 2009, Jordyn's mom and dad heard the news that every parent dreads: that their 8-year-old daughter's chances for survival had run out.
"We were told that Jordyn's cancer was no longer going into remission, and our best option was to take her home and to give her the best quality of life that she had left, which at this time was only 4 to 6 weeks because she was just so compacted with cancer," her mom remembers. "We just felt inside of us that how can we just sit here and watch our little girl melt away? She was at this point home on hospice, she was no longer wanting to eat, wanting to drink, couldn't do stairs anymore."
But Tracey Sukduang remembers something else about those harrowing days at home: The St. Jude commercials that seemed to always appear on television whenever she walked into the TV room.
"My daughter had fought at this point for eight years," she says. "Why couldn't the hope be given to her?"
After a conference call with the hospital, Tracey Sukduang and Jordyn were on a plane to Memphis, Tenn., the next morning, where they spent the next six months receiving the experimental treatment that would save Jordyn's life.
"Our daughter is cancer free and back in remission, back in school. It was nothing short of a miracle," Sukduang says. "Jordyn's just a walking miracle and a true story of what St. Jude is all about, which is never giving up and wanting to save children."
That's why it's especially poignant for Jordyn, now 11, and her sister, Taylor, 14, to be participating in the "Fitness for a Cure" fundraiser. Jordyn is the first St. Jude patient that's ever been on the Fitness for a Cure team, and according to their mother, the girls feel great about being able to give back to the hospital that has given their family so much.
The fundraiser, which has been held annually since 1999, raises money for the hospital, which never denies care to anyone, regardless of their ability to pay for treatment.
"For six months I was there with my child, and they not once asked for a dollar that was not covered," Sukduang said, adding that St. Jude even provided them with an apartment when they weren't in the hospital and food allowances for groceries. That help, along with cutting edge research, is made possible because of donations and "fundraisers like these," Sukduang says.
Organizer Sarouf says there are 110 participants on the "Fitness for a Cure" team, and that the event's focus on fitness is deliberate.
"Their healthy bodies are such a blessing," she says of her team members. "If they are blessed with health, they need to give back."
Now that Jordyn, too, has been blessed with health, she's excited to be on stage with the other kids.
"Jordyn is ecstatic to be just like them," Tracey says. "To feel like a normal child."
If you go:
What: Fitness for a Cure Family Event and Gala.
Where: Lowell Memorial Auditorium, 50 E. Merrimack St., Lowell.
When: Saturday, March 24; 12:30 p.m. family event; 6 p.m. gala
How much: Family event is $35 for adults, $15 for children; Gala: $150 for tickets or $1,500 for a tables of 10; Premium seating available for $250 per ticket
Learn more: fitnessforacure.com