Hailey Johnson

     Hailey Johnson was diagnosed with neuroblastoma at the age of six.  Now twelve, she is a seventh-grade student at Ojai's Matilija Junior High School.  She has beaten cancer and is on a mission to help other children like herself. She calls it "Hailey's Treasure Chest."

"It was a solid tumor that spread almost everywhere throughout my body," she told the Rotary Club of Ojai-West.  "The cancer was in my bone marrow, so they removed it, cleaned it, and kept it until it was time to put it back in.  I had seven courses of chemo, and pinpoint radiation to zap remaining cancer cells. I also had blood transfusions."

"After all this treatment, I didn't have much of an immune system.  I also had a nine-hour surgery in which doctors used tools to remove the cancer from my organs.  In the very beginning, I had trouble walking, because it was in my bone marrow. I weighed 32 pounds at the age of seven. I had nose tubes, and many shots."

 "Now, after one relapse, I am cancer-free. Even after missing all of first grade, and not having to make it up, I am getting straight-A's, and I am happy to be alive.  Now I want to raise money for cancer research, and toys and games for kids with cancer, because even a small thing can make a big difference in their lives."

 An audience member asked Hailey: When you were having a hard time, what was the source of your strength?

 "My strength was when my parents were there,” she answered. "We would just try to forget about it.  We would play video games, or play with whatever we could find, card games.  That kind of made me forget.  I always tried to keep myself happy."

 Hailey was visited in her hospital room by her mother, Kelly, and her father Tom, and two sisters Hollie and Maddie. "I basically lived in the hospital for a year," Hailey recalled.

 Hailey is raising funds for children receiving medical treatments for cancer at the Children's’ Hospital of Los Angeles.  The money also goes to parents of those children, to help them make morale-boosting visits. 

 "Knowing that someone wants to help them is really nice, and sometimes parents can't afford that money,” she said.

 Hailey has been working to gather funds at her school.  She auctioned off a teddy bear for $590 at Ojai's Friday Rotary Club.  The Tuesday Rotary Club bought pencils for a total of  $804.

 "This money goes to the kids," Hailey said.  "Every penny."   Hailey's mother Kelly advises those who wish to contribute to send donations directly to the Children's Hospital of Los Angeles, where a special account has been set up to receive it. 

 Hailey’s advice for anyone who finds himself/herself gravely ill:  

"Never give up, because if you give up, then there's no chance.  Look at me.  I'm still here."


Hailey Johnson received the Ojai Living Treasures Award on April 24th.  
She is the youngest person to be inducted.

 By Linda Taylor and Ray Smith,
                     Rotary Club of Ojai-West

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