ROOSEVELT ELEMENTARY SCHOOL — In 2007, Tyler Cordova went to the doctor with cold symptoms and was sent home. When he woke one night unable to breathe, he was rushed to the emergency room and the diagnosis changed. Six-year-old Tyler had non-Hodgkins lymphoma, a deadly blood cancer.
Tyler and 10-year-old Kelly Delaney, who has leukemia, are the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Boy and Girl of the Year, poster children for a fundraising effort by Santa Monica local Gregory Rutchik this weekend.
The festival, called Celebrate for a Cure, will be held on Sunday, March 29 from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at Roosevelt Elementary School in Santa Monica. It’s part of a larger campaign by the LLS to fund its cancer research and patient assistance efforts.
The event kicks off with a pancake breakfast with the Santa Monica Police Department and the rest of the day is filled with arts and crafts and musical performances by artists like Grammy-nominated children’s music performers Peter Himmelman and Willie Aron.
Rutchik, a lawyer by trade, organized the event as part of his candidacy for the LLS of Greater Los Angeles Man of the Year award. The campaign runs from Feb. 1 to March 31. Fifteen candidates, nominated by people within the community, vie to raise the most money to donate to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. The top fundraisers from each gender are then selected to be the Man and Woman of the Year.
Rutchik wanted the event to be kid-focused to encourage other families to face the reality of childhood cancer and support the cause within their community.
“Kelly and Tyler out of the blue came down with a deadly blood cancer,” Rutchik said. “We want to raise money and show people that cancer is scary and they should come out and support this cause, because these families can’t do it alone.”
While other candidates’ events have included more adult activities like wine tastings, the children’s arts festival was a blast out of Rutchik’s past.
“My parents actually threw an arts festival when I was a kid,” he said.
In that spirit, Rutchik decided to make the festival celebrate childhood. Cordova was thrilled to see one of the Man of the Year events geared toward a younger audience.
“A lot of the other events he’s been going to he’s had a great time at because he’s the star of the show,” Cordova said of her son. “But this is the first one he’s going to that other kids will be at.”
Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for children. Children 2 years old and under get in free.