When Langhorne’s Kamala Allen welcomed her son Mason into this world, she tasked herself with one goal – to protect her child. However, this proved to be easier said than done.
In 2015, at the age of 11, Mason was diagnosed with osteosarcoma – the most common bone cancer affecting children. Two years later, the 13-year-old, who was preparing to graduate from Levittown’s Carl Sandburg Middle School and attend Neshaminy High School with his peers, lost his cancer battle.
Rather than let grief take over, Kamala set a new goal — to make sure her child wasn’t forgotten. One month after Mason’s passing, she and his father Martin founded the Mason Chandler Allen Memorial Foundation, which works to advance the fight against osteosarcoma.
In order to raise funds for pediatric cancer research, the foundation is hosting its third annual STEPS Toward the Cure on Saturday, Sept. 28, at Carl Sandburg, 30 Harmony Road, with Kamala hoping to make this year’s walk the most successful yet.
“Our goal, really, is to try to make it a community event as opposed to just Mason’s family and friends. It’s something for everyone to participate in, especially if they have their own personal story with cancer,” she said. “It’s not just about one child who’s life was cut short, but really an opportunity to raise awareness about pediatric cancer and cancer overall.”
To date, STEPS Toward the Cure has raised an impressive $23,000 in proceeds, which Kamala said is distributed to two main causes.
A portion goes to Children’s Oncology Group, the world’s largest organization devoted exclusively to childhood and adolescent cancer research. At this year’s event, the executive director of Children’s Oncology Group is slated to be the guest speaker, and share details on how attendees’ donations will help in its quest to improve cancer patient outcomes.
The rest of the money raised goes to the foundation’s “quality of life” programming. This includes the distribution of gift-filled backpacks to cancer patients at St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children, where Mason received most of his treatment.
“It could be games, it could be fingernail polish,” Kamala said of the backpack’s contents. “Things that can cheer them up a little bit.”
Each backpack also contains a Dunkin’ gift card for the child’s parents, which Kamala said is often needed after a long, emotional day at the hospital, and a handwritten note, personally penned by Mason’s friends.
Though his peers have moved on from their Carl Sandburg days, their memories of Mason – the football fanatic with an infectious sense of humor – are not forgotten.
“They want to help in whatever way they can,” Kamala said. “For me, that has been one of the things that means a lot. People still reach out. They show up. Outside of events, they send letters and cards and make donations. The fact that they still think about him and honor him is great.”
Kamala also expressed gratitude toward the administration at Carl Sandburg for not only hosting STEPS Toward the Cure, but making an annual donation to the foundation.
“They recognize that this is a cause that we’ve not conquered yet,” she said. “The fact that they’re willing to put their support behind it really does mean a lot.”
The public is invited to donate to the Mason Chandler Allen Memorial Foundation year-round, with these additional funds utilized for scholarships. Every June, the foundation selects a student at Albert Schweitzer Elementary School, Carl Sandburg and Neshaminy to receive the Mason Chandler Allen Student Humanitarian Award for exhibiting Mason’s characteristics.
“He was extremely thoughtful and caring about other people. And he was smart,” Kamala said. “We look for kids who are all about giving back, contributing their time and talent to important causes, and who also maintain high academic standards for themselves.”
According to Kamala, this is simply another way she’s working to extend her son’s short but powerful legacy. ••
If you go…
The fourth annual STEPS Toward the Cure takes place on Saturday, Sept. 28, at Carl Sandburg Middle School, 30 Harmony Road, Levittown. Registration is at 8 a.m., with the walk taking place from 9 a.m. to noon. Cost is $25 for adults 18 and over, $10 for children ages 5-17, and free for children 5 and under. A T-shirt is included with paid registration while supplies last. Register in advance at mcamf.org or in-person on the day of the walk. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 215-436-9230.
Samantha Bambino can be reached at email@example.com