Colleen Kisel knew she could not spare her son the fear and pain of cancer treatment.
Desperate to intervene in any way, she thought: Give him something, a little source of comfort, to divert his attention.
Martin Kisel endured many painful procedures, including intensive chemotherapy, to fight acute lymphocytic leukemia. So Colleen Kisel started to buy her seven-year old a small new toy each time.
“I discovered that it became a calming distraction from his pain,” said Kisel, an Orland Park resident, of her idea hatched in February 1993.
Martin would win his fight. And then Kisel conceived a way to reproduce on a massive scale what she had done for her boy.
In 1996 she founded the Pediatric Oncology Treasure Chest Foundation, which provides free toys, gifts, and gift cards to children and teenagers in treatment for cancer.
It is the only charity of its kind in the nation. POTCF serves many hospitals throughout the Chicago area, including Advocate Hope Children’s Hospital in Oak Lawn, and the nation.
The past two years, Richards High School has organized a 5K run and walk as a fund raiser for POTCF. The event has generated more than $20,000 in donations. Richards, located at 10601 S. Central Avenue in Oak Lawn, will support POTCF this year, too.
Running with the Bulldogs, set for Sunday, September 21 at 8 a.m., again will serve as a fund raiser for Kisel’s organization. Anyone can register at www.runwiththedogs.com.
The mission of POTCF spoke to Richards teacher Bob Peck, who’s invested hundreds of hours of personal time planning and organizing Running with the Bulldogs.
“The idea of giving a child a gift after their treatment gives them a piece of hope every time they visit the hospital,” Peck said. “It gives them a chance to still feel like a kid and have enjoyment during a day that might seem gloomy by spending it in a hospital.”
For Kisel, the fight remains personal.
“When a child must endure the rigors of cancer treatment, there is little anyone can do to take away the pain. However, through the efforts of the Treasure Chest Foundation, children are provided with comfort and distraction during the times they need it most. It is our goal to keep these treasure chests full of toys so that each time a child needs that distraction, it’s there,” she said.