Tempe staffer puts heart into cancer fundraiser

February 08, 2016 / by / 0 Comment

By Jeannette Cruz
GCU News Bureau

Simple, handmade valentines can go a long way toward generating joy, especially among young cancer patients who are hospitalized and may miss out on exchanging cards with their friends and classmates.

GCU enrollment counselor Marissa Rutherford and her daughters, from left, XXXXXXXXXXXX, created Cupids for Kids! to help children with cancer.

GCU enrollment counselor Marissa Rutherford and her daughters, from left, Ava, 7, Jordan, 6, and Callie, 9, created Cupids for Kids!, which generated 600 handmade valentines to be delivered on Valentine’s Day to hospitalized children with cancer.

That’s what crossed Marissa Rutherford’s mind as she and her young daughters started talking about ways to raise money to help children fighting cancer.

Rutherford, an enrollment counselor in the Tempe office of Grand Canyon University, came up with Cupids for Kids!, which will benefit the sixth annual GCU Foundation Run to Fight Children’s Cancer. Scheduled for Saturday, March 12, on the Phoenix campus, the run raises money to support Arizona-based Children’s Cancer Network and Phoenix Children’s Hospital.

“We were sitting around the table brainstorming holidays between January and March, and Valentine’s Day was the only holiday in between before Run to Fight,” said Rutherford, a member of the run’s planning committee. “At first we thought about selling roses and chocolates, and then we decided that if we bought all our materials, we could make our own cards.”


The Rutherford girls, along with their classmates at Pomeroy Elementary in Chandler, created the valentines, which will be available for a suggested donation of $5 each at Tuesday night’s men’s basketball game in GCU Arena.

After learning that other children their ages are battling cancer, Rutherford’s daughters had a bigger idea – they would ask their classmates at Pomeroy Elementary in Chandler to help. The students got busy cutting, decorating and designing their cards with markers, hearts, rainbows, glitter and sweet messages to make each unique and special. Soon, Cupids for Kids! triggered a school-wide domino effect with 600 students sharing their love on paper.

“What started off as this little nugget of an idea led to an adventure,” Rutherford said. “My house is filled with cards from top to bottom, and the students are excitedly waiting for updates to see how much money they helped raise to get kids feeling better.”

The valentines will be sold for a suggested donation of $5 each before Tuesday’s men’s basketball game, a 7 p.m. start against Benedictine University of Mesa in GCU Arena. There, Cupids for Kids! will have a table, and the cards, which are blank on the inside, may be personalized by their donors.

An estimated 600 cards will be delivered on Sunday, Valentine’s Day, to patients and their families. The goal is to raise $3,000 and to surround the children with love and support from GCU, Rutherford said.

“Valentine’s Day is a tradition that we all grew up having, but for a child in the hospital it might be the only card they get or maybe the only card they have ever gotten from another child their age because they’ve been stuck in the hospital for so long,” she said.

Since the inaugural run in 2011, Run to Fight Children’s Cancer has raised nearly $400,000 to raise awareness of pediatric cancer, the leading cause of death by disease among children ages 14 and younger. The funds support research into promising diagnostic tools and cancer treatments and services for children and their families.

“Being in the hospital is difficult for anyone but especially for children,” said Betsy Rosebrugh, manager of  Child Life at PCH. “They fear the unknown, they are isolated from their peers and generally do not feel well. Cards and other donations from the community can relieve some of those feelings and even elicit a smile or two.”

Contact Jeannette Cruz at jeannette.cruz@gcu.edu or (602) 639-6631.

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