Bradi and Camryn used their recess time to write stories about their grandparents who died from cancer.
While most elementary school students play games or swing during recess, Bradi Keller and Camryn Hays worked on a unique project — one rooted in family and community service.
Now the girls, incoming fourth graders at Holy Rosary School in Monroe City, are using their project to help take care of cancer patients in Northeast Missouri.
The pair wrote and illustrated a book titled “The Journey of Cancer” and have donated the revenue from selling the book to the James E. Cary Cancer Center in Hannibal.
Quiet and unassuming, the girls expressed the emotion of giving to cancer patients simply.
“Happy,” Bradi said.
“Really happy,” Camryn chimed in.
Bradi and Camryn used their recess time to write stories about their grandparents who died from cancer: Bradi's grandfather Dennis Hancock and Camryn grandmother Dede Yager.
“It's about what our grandparents loved doing and their journey,” Bradi explained.
Once they began compiling short stories and illustration, a friend, Emily Spalding, suggested they put it all together as a book.
The idea took off from there, with help from the girls' parents and other community members. Amber Hays, Camryn's mother, learned of the book when her daughter came home with a plan: she wanted to sell paper copies outside of a Monroe City grocery store and give the proceeds to cancer patients.
“I just thought that was really sweet, so I took a picture and put it on Facebook,” Hays said.
From there, Neal Minor, former Monroe City mayor and owner of a publishing company, said he could help publish the book and widen the scope of the project. The results have been impressive.
The girls said more than 200 copies of the book have already sold. At a book signing in June at the Monroe City Library, all of the copies available sold out. The group had to order more.
The mothers of both girls say they're proud of the project that originated entirely from the minds of the then-third graders.
“They wanted to help other people, they were putting others ahead of themselves,” said Beth Keller, Bradi's mother.
Dede Yager and Dennis Hancock were well-known members of the Monroe City community. They passed away on July 18, 2015, and Aug. 21, 2015, respectively.
“I think we thought about (Keller's) dad (Hancock) and my mom (Yager) and how proud they would be to have them do this in their honor and help others that have one through this journey,” Hays said.
Added Keller: “It's one more way that Dede and my dad are helping people through our girls.”
With the first bit of revenue they received from the book sales, the girls helped a cancer patient needing treatment.
“We surprised this lady who couldn't pay her bill, and we paid it for her,” Bradi said with a warm smile.
The gift is reminiscent of the Monroe County Cancer Supporters — a prominent Monroe County group that delivers no-strings-attached checks to cancer patients from the county. Camryn's grandfather and Dede Yager's husband, Gary Yager, is the president of the group.
The girls hope to preserve the memory of their grandparents through their project.
What do the girls remember about them?
“How much he loved us,” Bradi said about Hancock.
“When we went to her house, we brushed her wigs for her. She loved that,” Camryn remembered about Yager.
The girls say some people find the book a little bit sad, but it's the hope they give current cancer patients through the book's sale that means the most to them.
You can order copies of “The Journey of Cancer” on Amazon.
Reach editor Eric Dundon at email@example.com .