QUAPAW– Communities across the country will be pitching in to help give cancer fighter Jaelee Munson, 6, an unforgettable Valentine's Day.
Jaelee is a first grader at Quapaw Elementary and is the daughter of Kevin and Casie Scott-Munson of Quapaw.
She was diagnosed with Metastatic Neuroblastoma on April 5, 2016 where a cantaloupe-sized tumor had attached itself to her adrenal gland.
Neuroblastoma is the most common cancer in infancy and the most common extracranial solid tumor of childhood, with an incidence of over 700 cases in the United States every year, according to the American Cancer Society. Metastatic Neuroblastoma accounts for about six percent of all cancers in children.
“June Bug,”as she is known by friends and family, has been a trooper throughout the cancer battle and has refused to give up without a fight. A majority of the mass has been successfully removed, and she has undergone two stem cell transplants at Children's Mercy Hospital in Kansas City.
Since the transplants, Jaelee has been battling fevers, nausea, broken blood vessels and Myocarditis. The doctors are letting her build up her strength before the next radiation treatment.
Casie said one of Jaelee's biggest difficulties is having to miss school and her class Valentine's Day party.
“She asked about February and Valentine's Day, ‘Will we get to go buy decorations for Valentine’s after Christmas?’ I told her it's going to be just a bit, but it's right around the corner,” Casie said. “Jaelee started to cry and said ‘I'm going to miss my school's Valentine’s party again, huh?’ I told her I'm not sure but mommy and daddy will have a Valentine’s party somewhere for you.”
The family's Valentine's Day plans took an unexpected turn when first grade teacher Tanya Reece read in the paper that Jaelee was going to miss her class holiday party. Reece is a former Fairland kindergarten teacher that now teaches in Neosho.
Reece is also a member of the Miami Ice Racing Team. The group ran for Jaelee last year in Tulsa with her photograph and buttons. Jaelee received a medal for being an honorary runner.
“I’m in the Miami Ice Running Group, and we ran for her in October,” Reece said. “I’ve been following her story, and I remembered an article where Jaelee had asked if she could go to her Valentine’s party. That absolutely killed me. Here we are planning a Valentine’s party for our kids, and I thought of adding her to my list. Then I thought, if I’m going to add her to my list, I wonder if I could get the other teachers in our building.”
Reece's idea blossomed as she made a post on her Facebook page about her idea, which went viral in less than 24 hours.
“Hearing her wanting to make it to her Valentine’s Day party touched my heart,” Reece said. “I thought this was something small I could do and it’s turned into something ginormous.
“Now, I’m just keeping up with everybody sending their gifts to me,” she added. “I have gotten so many people on board.”
Reece had no idea her Facebook post would blow up as much as it did, which now has more than 142 shares as of Tuesday.
“I really just tagged my friends that I know are teachers that I taught with at Fairland and principals I’m friends with in Miami, and it just went from there,” Reece said. “I want to make handmade cards and possibly have the kids’ photos on the back of the Valentine’s. Then, she could associate their faces with the Valentine.”
Thus far, communities participating in Jaelee's unforgettable day include Quapaw, Miami, Afton, Fairland, Grove, Neosho, Vinita, Welch, Bluejacket, Seneca, Turkey Ford and Adair. Churches and other organizations are also jumping on board.
Jaelee enjoys arts and crafts, toys and drawing. She is not allowed to have any plants, flowers or fresh fruit baskets.
“She loves stuffed animals to sleep with,” Casie said. “She loves getting new pajamas to wear because she doesn't care for the hospital gown. She is a toy collector meaning she collects shopkins, num noms and anything that's in a blind bag or blind 'mystery' box.”
Casie said they plan to make this a surprise for Jaelee.
“She doesn't realize how many people think of her and pray for her, so I do have to explain,” Casie said. “If it's like Christmas or more, she is going to love it and she will be like 'For me, mommy?' and have this huge smile."
Valentine's Day gifts and donations can be sent to Tanya Dowden Reece c/o Valentine's 58761 East 107 Road Miami, Oklahoma 74534. Tanya’s husband, Mike Reece, said people could also drop off donations at the Northeastern Technology Center in Afton where his office is located in the Education Building.
Others have offered to bring the gifts to Miami or ship them to Tanya at the address listed above.
“I think we’re going to have lots of carrier pigeons bring them to Miami,” Reece said.
The deadline for donations will be the week before Valentine's Day. For those wishing to send her a gift directly, mail to Miss Jaelee Munson at Children's Mercy Hospital, 2401 Gillham Road, Henson Tower Room #1, Kansas City, Missouri 64108. Monetary donations can be made to the Jaelee Munson Fund at any Arvest Bank location.
If anyone else would like to set up a drop-off location, contact Tanya Reece at 918-533-3962.
Casie and Kevin said they cannot thank the communities enough for their generosity and support.
“We are very blessed to live in the community we live in and now that we have people all over the United States wanting to mail Jaelee a card or a gift,” Casie said. “It just shows that with God, all things are possible. It's so humbling when I get messages from all over wanting to make this little girl smiles. I have to hold back the happy tears because the more people Jaelee touches, the more prayers she is going to get! So, yes do we feel special? Everyday! Yes, we do. Thank you, Lord.”
There are several other ways to give back to Jaelee and her family. Northeastern A&M College is selling shirts to support Jaelee and her family. The t-shirts include the phrases “Tougher than Cancer, Stronger Together” on the front and “Team Jaelee” on the back. Youth and adult sizes small-XL are $10 and size XXL is $12. All the proceeds from the shirt sales will be donated to the Munson family.
Shirts can be purchased at home NEO basketball games and on Feb. 9, NEO basketball will host “Team Jaelee Night.” On Feb.10, NEO Softball will also host a “Team Jaelee” game to open their season. Anyone wearing a “Team Jaelee” shirt will receive free admission to both events.
To keep up-to-date with news about Munson, the family has created the hashtag #TeamJaelee on social media. For more information about the “Team Jaelee” t-shirts or the “Team Jaelee Night,” contact Lisa Severe at 918-540-6327.
The Ottawa Tribe of Oklahoma is selling ribbons and stickers to help support the Munson family. Yellow, 3-inch ribbons are being sold for $3 and come with a small safety pen attached. Removable “Pray for Jaelee” stickers are 4-inches high and 6-inches wide and cost $6.
Individuals can purchase these items at the tribe's office located at 13 Hwy. 69A in Miami or by placing an order by mail with payment included. All checks should be made payable to "Pray for Jaelee benefit fund.” The mailing address is: Pray for Jaelee, c/o Ottawa Tribe, P. O. Box 110, Miami, Oklahoma 74355.