A 'Ray of Sunshine' Raises Awareness in the Valley

By: Carly Stephenson Email
By: Carly Stephenson Email

Follow Carly Stephenson on Facebook and Twitter.

FISHERSVILLE, Va. (WHSV)-- As 2-year-old Raygan Batton fights to be cancer free, her caretaker and members of the community, held the second annual Ray of Sunshine Festival in Fishersville.

Donna Abshire, who takes care of Raygan, is so grateful for all the community support.

Now, she and others want to pay it forward for other families in the Valley whose kids have just been diagnosed with cancer.

"You gotta do what you gotta do to save your baby, it's a terrible world to walk off into, but we'll get there, and kids are resilient and she just wants to play," said Abshire.

And as Raygan slides down a slide, she doesn't seem worried about having to start another round of therapy on Jul. 21.

Donna Abshire calls Raygan her "ray" of sunshine. At just two, she's had six rounds of chemo, surgery to remove a tumor, and now antibody therapy.

"Upon completion, hopefully we're going to beat this monster all together," said Abshire.

People give blood hoping to help cancer patients. Donation jars fill up, and all proceeds are going to the University of Virginia (UVA) Children's hospital and local patients.

"It's a rare cancer that she has, but I know other children that are right along our journey with us, that have cancer, so we need to raise awareness, you know the government only gives 3.8 percent to support children's cancer," said Abshire.

Raygan is the first recipient of antibody therapy for neuroblastoma at UVA children's hospital. This is something her doctor, Dr. Brian Belyea, says isn't readily available locally. But thanks to it, her survival rate has increased to 60 percent.

"Unless you know someone who's been affected, people don't realize how many children each year are diagnosed with cancer and so raising awareness for that problem and having people donate money helps the cause," said Dr. Belyea, an assistant professor of Pediatrics at UVA.

Dr. Belyea says funds are being raised by non-profits and other events like this one, because of a lack of federal funds. As Raygan wins the war against neuroblastoma, she has some advice for other patients.

"Be strong," said Raygan Batton.

Raygan will be going through another round of antibody treatment on Jul. 21. If she relapses, Donna says there's no cure. Last year, the festival raised thousands of dollars.

If you'd like to donate for research, please click on the 'Cancer Research Donation' link on the sidebar of this story. To check out Raygan's Facebook page, click on the Raygan Batton Facebook link.

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