Quilts for Hope
Belleville Middle School

NBC 15 News

Posted: Friday, February 19, 2010 --- 4:13 a.m.

When a family hears the word "cancer" it's heart-breaking.

But we often think it can never happen to us - or worse yet, our children.

This morning, we introduce you to a local couple from Belleville who wants to put neuroblastoma on the map - and get you to join their "Team Charlotte."

" You're basically going in for a regular check up and suddenly you're going home with cancer and chemotherapy.. "

When Charlotte was four months old, she was diagnosed with neuroblastoma.

It's a form of cancer that starts in certain types of nerve cells in the embryo or fetus.

It is often diagnosed as a solid tumor, Charlotte's was found in her leg.

" Everything happened so fast and you're just in shock and it's hard to absorb a lot of it. "

Now that one-year-old Charlotte is done with treatment, Kristi and Kevin Rufener are hoping their daughter's story can make a difference.

"Her oncologist and her occupational therapist could never tell us .. we would get use of her legs back. She's out and about more often, meeting people, we're working to get the word out."

They've gone out of their way to meet people whose children are fighting the same cancer.

They even started a website to get more funding and research for neuroblastoma in particular.

"The chemo drugs they give adults are the same ones they give kids and the studies that we're part of are basically trials to see how much of this drug we can give a child. Because they're in adult doses so that was kind of a scary thing to find out as well. "

Every year, 600 cases of neuroblastoma are diagnosed. And Kristi and Kevin aren't the only ones working to spread the word.

Students in Belleville made a quilt to draw attention to the disease and help families like theirs make ends meet.

"We're getting sacked with pretty decent sized bills.. it's really nice to see people going out and purchasing little bracelets and stuff like that. Little itty bitty things that help pay those bill down so we're not just dumped with tons and tons of bills as well

 

Channel 3000 News

Local Family Shares Daughter's Struggle With Rare Cancer

Rufener's Hope To Create Awareness About Neuroblastoma

Posted: 4:51 am CST February 16, 2010

A Belleville toddler just celebrated her first birthday, but has already faced an adult dose of adversity.

Charlotte Rufener has been fighting a rare childhood cancer called neuroblastoma.

It's the reason some Belleville Middle School students are showing their support. On Monday, they presented the Rufener family with a handmade quilt.

The quilt is one of five made for the school's "Quilts for Hope" program, which is coordinated by Bob Gintelli, a social studies teacher and former teacher of Rufener's two parents.

"I could just tell by their faces in my classroom that when Kevin and Kristi started talking about the chemo -- the procedures they had to go through -- I could just tell by their faces they were truly touched by their experience," said Gintelli.

Rufener was diagnosed with neuroblastoma when she was 4-months-old, after suddenly losing use of her legs. Doctors discovered a tumor on her spinal cord and she immediately began chemotherapy treatments.

Rufener finished her treatments in December; her parents hope their story can inspire others.

Kevin and Kristi Rufener said they were touched and grateful to receive the quilt.

"How do you tell a child that you were born and four months later you had cancer and you spent most of the first year of your life in and out of the hospital? Even though we have to tell her that, we'll also be able to tell her, 'look at this blanket that these kids made for you,'" said Kristi Rufener.

It took Gintelli's students three months to finish the quilt. Others were given to a soldier who served in Afghanistan, a Belleville woman fighting cancer, and a senior citizen at St. Mary's Care Center in Madison.

A fifth quilt -- the "Honor's Quilt" for cancer survivors -- is still being made and will be auctioned off on EBay during the week of February 22nd. Proceeds will benefit a local cancer organization.

"The goal of the Abby quilt -- Charlotte's quilt -- was simply to give the physical comfort, you know the physical peace to the baby," said Gintelli. "We also wanted to show Kevin and Kristi that there are people out there who care, who can all come together to not only become aware of the disease but fight it with her."

Charlotte celebrated her first birthday on Feb. 11. She'll return to the American Family Children's Hospital in March for her first follow-up tests since completing chemotherapy.

"Now that Charlotte's getting better and we have her on a more flexible schedule, we want to get the word out (about neuroblastoma) because it's not really well-known," said Kristi. "It's so rare a lot of people haven't heard about it, including us -- when she was diagnosed with it that was the first time we had heard of it, as well."

The Rufener's have also started a website to create awareness about neuroblastoma, the lack of funding for childhood cancer research, and their daughter's story, www.CureCharlotte.com.

"We're just normal people. This can happen to anybody, you know. You always say this is somebody else going through it, but you know on the grand scheme of things you're somebody else to somebody else," said Kristi. "We want there to be a reason she went through this, we want her story to be told."