Classmates, Teachers Celebrate Birthday For 8-Year-Old Student Battling Leukemia – NBC Chicago

The gym at Forest Road Elementary in suburban La Grange Park was packed Thursday night as people in the community gathered to celebrate a special birthday for 8 year old Gwen Coia who has one wish this year.

“Mostly having time with my friends and family,” said Gwen Coia.

The second grader has been battling leukemia since Feb. 2022 and has been receiving treatment at Loyola University Medical Center.

“We’re so happy treatment is going well,” said her mom Hilary Coia. “We are just so grateful the team at Loyola has been amazing.”

Her classmates and teachers showered her with love and support.

“This community here is like amazing,” said her cousin Laney Andrys. “They’re doing all this for Gwen—I think that’s really special.”

More than 40 people shaved their heads or cut their locks to join her fight against cancer and to raise money for pediatric cancer research.

“It gives me goosebumps to see everybody coming together to support Gwen and her family and St. Baldrick’s in general,” said teacher Kristin Bridges.

“I don’t see how you can stand idle by and not do anything about it,” said teacher Josh Thomas, who organized the party and fundraiser. “If the least I can do is shave my head and raise money– I’ll do it everyday if I could.”

The young fighter took charge on stage by shaving her dad’s head. He’s been with her every step of the way.

“It was great. I was waiting for her to shave my eyebrows off,” he laughed. “Kinda nerve wrecking, it was great, she did a great job.”

Gwen’s family now hoping and praying for a clean bill of health as her cancer is in remission. Her teacher said she has a lot of fight in her and knows she will get through this with her community’s support.

“Cancer affects everyone and when it hits with children it’s especially heartbreaking,” said teacher Amy Shea. “We have such a great community and I feel like this community of La Grange Park always comes together for its people.”

The fundraising team at Forest Road has raised more than $30,000 for pediatric cancer research as part of the St. Baldrick’s Foundation.

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