Fulton going gold for childhood cancer awarness

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FULTON - The Fulton Brick District is turning gold for childhood cancer awareness month.

From the sidewalk or the street, a visitor can see signs on street lights and decorations in window displays. 

The locals know why the decorations are there: for Super Sam.

Sam Santhuff, a Fulton boy, was only 5 years old when he was diagnosed with rhabdomyosarcoma. He lost his 13-month-long battle almost 4 years ago. 

His family set up a foundation in his name to focus on what he did in his daily prayers. He prayed for "all the kids," his family said.

Cassie Santhuff, Sam's mother, said her family funnels their grief into the foundation. 

"That’s why I know we will never give up because we made a promise to Sam that we would fight for all the kids and that’s what we’re going to do," Santhuff said.

The foundation is based on advocacy, research and awareness of childhood cancer. This year, the family had a new idea for their mission. 

The foundation is working with the city and the downtown brick district to "turn the bricks gold." 

Santhuff said the campaign is a sign of the community's support for childhood cancer awareness.

"It’s certainly not just for Sam. It’s not just the Super Sam Foundation. It’s all the kids: in mid-Missouri, in Missouri and really the childhood cancer community at large," Santhuff said. 

She said awareness sparks change.

"No one is going to make any change happen if they don’t know about the cause in the first place," Santhuff said. 

Businesses are decorating their windows with gold themes. 

Danielle Kilmer of Court Street Custom Framing is filling her window with gold picture frames containing statistics collected by the Super Sam Foundation. 

One reads, "Less than 4% of the National Cancer Institute's funds support childhood cancer research." 

Kilmer said she is surprised by that number. 

"We think there’s so much research and money going toward cancer that it’s not evident that so much of it doesn't go to children. They are shocking," Kilmer said. 

Kilmer said the Fulton community was affected by Sam's death, but she said it still needs more awareness. 

"This is an issue that touched our community really deeply and there are some really passionate, kind people working on this cause and it’s hard to not want to help them and be involved," Kilmer said. 

Karen Helmrich of Creating UnKamen decorated her window with her store's gold handmade jewelry. She said one of her motivations for helping with the Super Sam Foundation came from a woman who recently died from liver cancer.

"She said, ‘Breasts get all the attention and the pediatric cancers aren’t politically as popular to promote. Couldn’t we do something for that?’ When I heard about this charity, it was a perfect fit and a perfect opportunity to highlight that," Helmrich said. 

Helmrich said awareness is important to start the conversation about childhood cancer. 

"In general, people don’t like to talk about cancer, especially children dying from cancer. It really pulls on heart strings, and I think as a society we just don’t know how to really deal with that well and so we just don’t want to talk about it," she said. 

She said this cause is important because she can see its local effect. 

"This is a way to really focus it down to one child who really put up a tremendous battle and whose family supported them and how to actually make a difference in a real specific way to the local community," Helmrich said. 

Helmrich said this campaign highlights the reason she moved her business to Fulton. 

"The combination of this community that cares to begin with, with a local charity, is just a perfect mesh. It’s wonderful that we’re able to work together as a community, as a brick district to highlight that," she said. 

Businesses that decorate their windows can win a table at the Super Sam Foundation's annual Hope Gala on Sept. 28. 

Santhuff said she hopes more cities adopt this campaign. 

"I hope to see this copied time and time again across America and have those towns really rally behind their local heroes in the fight, around their local foundations to support change legislatively and then with research as well and really make the change," Santhuff said. 

She said she feels "unbelievable pride" with the community behind her.

"To see the town support us, to see Sam’s memory and legacy live on, to see us actually filling our promise, it means everything to me and we’re not going to stop," she said. 

Santhuff said it is important to keep talking about childhood cancer. 

"When you have the opportunity to hear about a child that’s fighting, don’t walk away. That’s why we’re underfunded in the first place, because it’s a hard discussion to have,” she said.   

Santhuff said the Super Sam Foundation is collaborating with nine international foundations to fund a $250,000 grant for childhood cancer research. It will announce details next week.