Fifth grader turns sports-a-thon idea into a successful fund raiser

cancer webEAST GREENWICH TWP. — Sienna Jade Burnham, a fifth grader at Samuel Mickle Elementary, has an uncle, Jeff, age 45, who was diagnosed with colon cancer earlier this year. Burnham wanted to do something to help raise awareness and money for colon cancer research.

She got together with a few of her teammates and her coach on the East Greenwich Amazons U12 soccer team and developed an idea to offer kids a sports-a-thon fundraiser on a Saturday afternoon to raise money for the cause. The event would be held in Berkley Landing, involving the Burnham family’s property, as well as adjoining residents’ property, with their permission.

This group of children, originally expected to be in the dozens, multiplied to over 200 people raising money for Colon Cancer in honor of Sienna’s Uncle Jeff. Kids and adults alike played volleyball, wiffleball, soccer, bean bags, drip-drip-drop, frisbee, ringed pegs, tug-o-war, jump rope, and more.

Burnham and her team sold hot dogs, soft pretzels, cold drinks and snacks. They also offered a bake sale table to attend to each guest’s sweet tooth.

Guests were asked to wear blue to support TEAM JEFF, as blue is the color used for the ribbon in support of colon cancer.

Families and companies donated items for a raffle drawing, and she raised the bulk of the money through the sale of these tickets, several people buying more than $100’s worth of tickets.

Burnham’s goal was to raise at least $1,000 but she and her planning crew more than doubled that, with a total of $2,100.

Hoping to raise even more, Sienna took the event’s bake sale on the road and sold the remaining sweets at her church at a bake sale table on Sunday, June 1, and made over another $100 with this endeavor. The next few days produced additional contributions and before she knew it, her tally topped $2,300, of which she was very proud.

At the beginning, Sienna’s family encouraged her to consider a later date given many other activities on the calendar during this time of year, but Sienna’s determination won out and the event went on as planned, on a day that turned out to be a day her Uncle Jeff said he would never forget. “I was honored with the support and love poured out toward me and to support my battle against colon cancer,” Jeff said. He added that he was very happy to have felt strong enough to attend and enjoy the festivities since his recent chemo treatments were wearing him out.

‘We were so happy to have people from my school, my church, my community, my soccer team, my neighborhood, and my family come out to support the cause,” said Burnham. “We didn’t know exactly what to expect but we were excited to see so many people want to join in the fun for a great cause and to give hugs and high fives to my Uncle Jeff!” She gave an extra shout out to her soccer coach Megan Heyer, and her special teammate Olivia Heyer, who supported her and her family in many of the details and planning efforts.

Burnham’s brothers Mitchell and Sean both attend Kingsway Regional High School and were successful in rounding up dozens of their school classmates to take part in this day of support for Team Jeff and awareness of colon cancer.

“This sure grew into something big kind of on its own,” Sienna said. “It was like news spread mostly by word of mouth.”

The acoustic band Stained Glass Crosses, with Sienna’s dad, Mike Burnham as lead guitarist, played for several hours to entertain the crowd. Among many other selections, they played the wedding song for Sienna’s Uncle Jeff and his wife Tammy, to honor their recent marriage. The couple got married January 18, 2014, just after Jeff’s diagnosis.

Burnham and her fellow concert band members from Samuel Mickle School also performed several numbers to complement the entertainment for the day.

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