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Pennies to fight cancer

For eight-year-old Aiden Sichel, the battle against blood cancer is being waged a penny at a time.

Sichel, of Park Slope, will be among the city’s schoolchildren participating in the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s 2009-2010 Pennies for Patients Campaign, a nationwide initiative where kids collect money — including their own pocket change — that goes to support the programs and patient services provided by the society. More than 450 schools in the city were enrolled last year in the program, according to the White Plains-based LLS, the world’s largest voluntary health organization dedicated to funding blood cancer research. So far, 491 schools have registered to participate this year, according to the LLS.

For Aiden, who attends the Berkeley Carroll School on Lincoln Place, the campaign is a personal one. Back in 2004, he was diagnosed with acute lymphocytic leukemia, a type of cancer of the blood. For two years, he received both radiation and chemotherapy, and has been in remission since 2006, according to his mother, Linda Sichel.

“The whole thing had its ups and down, but he’s doing great,” Sichel said.Instead of taking trips to hospital rooms, Aiden now enjoys playing basketball, swimming, riding his bike, and playing video games. While her son certainly recognized the strain and worry on his parents’ faces, he has not yet grasped the severity of his diagnosis, his mother said. According to the LLS, more children and young adults under the age of 20die from leukemia than from any other form of cancer,

Aiden, however, is beginning to recognize that there are groups, like the LLS, and fundraisers, like the Pennies for Patients Campaign, that do “bigger and better things for leukemia,” his mother said. Aiden will be the campaign’s “honored patient hero” in Brooklyn,providing inspiration to fellow students, organizers note.

During the 2008-09 school year, New York City students raised an estimated $325,000 by collecting spare change to help fund cancer research and provide services to patients and their families, according to the society. This year the New York City Chapter of the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society is planning to top that tally. “It’s inspiring to see young people volunteer their time and efforts to helping others,” said Michael Osso, executive director for the New York City Chapter. “Pennies for Patients is a truly meaningful program because kids get to see first hand what a difference something as small as a penny can make.”

To date, Pennies for Patients has raised more than $100 million, according to the LLS.

School teachers, parents and administrators can learn more about the Pennies for Patients program at an information session by signing up for a January kick-off. To sign up for an information session or learn how to register your school, visit, or contact a local chapter at (212) 448-9206, x265.

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