CUMMING, Ga. — Sydney Ridings is a beautiful 14-year-old with a warm contagious smile, outgoing friendly personality and a bald head.
Sydney, who is battling Ewing’s Sarcoma, sparks something in people.
Deputy Angie Lively, a Forsyth County Sheriff’s school resource officer at Liberty Middle School, is one of hundreds of people touched by that spark.
“Every day, she shows up to school and she just has the sweetest smile on her face and she’s so sick and she never lets anybody know it,” Lively said. “She’ll not have her wig on, she’ll not have her hat on and she’s still so beautiful and so inspiring.”
In Ridings’ honor, Lively wanted to help spread the word about a St. Baldrick’s Foundation event, which funds child cancer research.
After putting the call out to fellow sheriff’s deputies, the word spread throughout the community and it has since snowballed.
Lively, along with fellow Deputy Tammi Wright, a top fund raiser and resource officer at Forsyth Central High School, began to invite donations and challenge people to shave their heads in support.
On Feb. 10, those in support of Ridings convened at Liberty Middle School for a celebration fundraiser for St. Baldrick’s and Locks of Love, which makes wigs for child cancer patients.
In all, Liberty and its community raised about $15,000, event officials announced, far surpassing their goal of $5,000.
In addition, about 60 sheriff’s deputies, firefighters, teachers, students and parents shaved their heads and/or donated hair.
Tammy Ridings, Sydney’s mother, said they are unsure how much longer Sydney will undergo treatment.
It’s Sydney’s second round of chemotherapy.
“They want to do surgery to remove the tumorous bone in her spine,” her mother said. “We have to get a lot of things taken care of before we get to that point. We don’t have an estimated time at this point.”
In August 2011, Sydney was diagnosed.
Sydney finished the first protocol in May 2012 and was deemed cancer free at that point. During a follow up scan and biopsy in July 2013, the family received the devastating news that the cancer was back.
“We’ve been fighting it ever since,” Tammy Ridings said.
In addition to treatment at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta at Scottish Rite, the family is coordinating care with an oncologist in Levine Children’s Hospital, in Charlotte, N.C.
“In hopes to get more minds together and come up with a solution,” Tammy said. “Childhood cancer is unpredictable.”
Throughout the event at Liberty, Sydney’s signature smile was bright as ever.
“It feels really good to know that people care so much to donate,” Sydney said. “This is in my honor, but it’s in honor of every child.”
Deputy Brandon Keenan, a civil service deputy, said he shaved his head because he believes in the cause.
“It’s wonderful to do something positive for the community,” Keenan said. “There isn’t anybody who doesn’t have someone in their family or someone they know who hasn’t been affected by it.”
The event for the eighth-grader has blossomed into something that inspired so many people. Students made colored ribbons to signify the many different forms of cancer that affect people’s lives. The Patriot Pep Band performed during the head-shaving event.
One particular head shaving got a lot of attention – science teacher Chris Cummo had said if students could raise $2,500, not only would he shave his head, but he would also shave his “bushy Italian eyebrows.”
True to his word, Cummo sat patiently as Forsyth County Superintendent L.C. “Buster” Evans ran the clippers through his hair.
“It’s a cause that will be with all of us as we continue to battle cancer,” Evans said. “It’s a great thing for our students, not to just raise money, but to be involved and to get people involved.”
Visit Pray for Sydney Ridings’ Facebook page or donate to St. Baldrick’s at http://bit.ly/1gzeVcm.