Thirty-five years ago, the Susan Fund awarded its first grants.
The recipients were special: young men and women battling cancer who — besides facing staggering medical bills — needed help paying for college.
This year, the Susan Fund — named in honor of Susan Lloyd, a popular, multi-talented Staples student who succumbed to bone cancer while at Colgate University — reaches a milestone. It has distributed $1.5 million, providing hope (and education) to hundreds of Fairfield County residents.
Every awardee’s story is unique. But Kendall Mather illustrates just how powerful an impact the Susan Fund can have.
Kendall grew up in Westport. She attended Greens Farms Elementary and Bedford Middle Schools. At Staples she was on the tennis team, and active in the St. Luke Church youth group.
Two years ago, near the end of junior year, the back, hip and leg pain she’d experienced for a while grew intolerable. The morning of her Advanced Placement Economics test, she could not walk.
Several doctors thought it was a sports injury. But at Yale-New Haven Children’s Hospital, Kendall was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia.
Kendall’s cancer has a very high cure rate. Still, she underwent several rounds of chemo, and a few surgeries due to complications. She’ll finish her treatment in October — soon after entering the University of Miami. (She took this year off, to focus on her health.)
Friends and family have provided tremendous support. “When I was in my worst shape, they treated me normally,” Kendall says.
“Medical bills are a huge burden to many families,” Kendall notes. “Even the scans to see if treatment is working are enormous. It’s amazing what this fund can do for families.”
Kendall is gratified to be one of the recipients. At Miami, she plans to major in business, with a focus on real estate.
Then — when she embarks on her own career, with her degree (and a cancer-free diagnosis), Kendall looks forward to giving back to the Susan Fund.
“They’ve helped so many people,” she notes. “It’s the least I can do.”
(On June 26, the Susan Fund holds its 35th annual reception. They’ll distribute more than $75,000 in college scholarships to 29 Fairfield County students — including 4 Staples grads — diagnosed with cancer. For more information, or to contribute, click on www.TheSusanFund.org)