When word got out that Cassidy Brozovich, 10, had been diagnosed with ovarian cancer, it didn't take long for students and residents of Howland to begin looking for ways to help Cassidy and her family.
''It has been overwhelming,'' said Cassidy's mother, Michelle Bolchak. ''We have had so much help from the community and from people we don't even know.''
According to Bolchak, on March 6, Cassidy came home from school with stomach pains. After tests were run, it was discovered she had a rare form of ovarian cancer that attacks only one child in one million.
Students and staff at Howland Middle School organized and held a Coins for Cassidy fundraiser last month to help Cassidy Brozovich, 10, a student at North Road Intermediate School. Pictured front row, from left, are Toni Schmidt, 10; Kyle Chopko, 10; Joey Carnifax, 11; Hayden Thompson, 11; Jason Rapp, 11; Remon Boyd, 8; and Kevin Chopko, 10. Second row from left are: Angela Guarnieri, Michele Heinselman, Audra Buckley, Lea Farina, middle school principal Karen Coleman, Charissa Mayhew, Misty Berry, Jennefer Peters, Lisa Sutton, Carol Dellostritto, Jenifer Studer and Jerry Young. Back row, from left, are Tim Elder, Lori Sanders, Lynda Grove, Kim Messina, Ken Lasko, Karen DeFrancesco, Andrea Jones, Shelly Chopko, Cindy Baer, Megan Kurtz, Colleen Goodman and Lorraine Bell.
''It was so rare, the University of Minnesota approached us for a research study,'' Bolchak said.
Although Cassidy will return for regular testing, after emergency surgery and three rounds of chemotherapy, Cassidy's doctors have said she is now cancer free, Bolchak said.
Missing six weeks of school, Bolchak said Cassidy's teacher from North Road Intermediate School, Diane Taylor, came to their home and tutored Cassidy so she wouldn't get behind in her classes.
''They were wonderful,'' Bolchak said. ''They (teachers and school administrators) are so protective of her.''
Yet in spite of her illness, Cassidy's classmates welcomed her back to school and have not treated her any differently, Bolchak said.
Although Cassidy is a student at North Road school, Howland Middle School students and staff rallied last month and held a fundraiser for a student many of them had never even met. Fourth grade teacher, Jenifer Studer, came up with the idea to collect ''Coins for Cassidy.'' Bottle water, which was donated by the school's teachers and administrators, were handed out to students with labels that explained Cassidy's condition. Each student was asked to drink the water and if they chose, they could collect coins in the empty bottles and return them to the school. Of the 366 bottles handed out, more than 200 were returned.
''We have been spending a lot of time counting out and wrapping coins,'' said middle school principal Karen Coleman. ''North Road is our sister school,'' Coleman said, ''and this team of teachers is amazing. All you have to do is mention something and they're right on it.''
In addition to collecting coins, students at the middle school made get well cards for Cassidy.
Other fundraisers also were held for Cassidy, including a bowling fundraiser held May 20 at Echo Lanes in Warren. In addition, a group of parents with children at North Road School, joined together and held several fundraising activities throughout all six Howland school buildings. As word spread throughout the community, Officer Eric Bowker, Howland Resource Officer at Howland High School, brought Cassidy Brozovich's needs to the attention of the Howland F.O.P. 163. The F.O.P. donated a check in the amount of $1,000, which was presented to the Brozovich/Bolchalk family, the day of the bowling event.
The committee of Team Cassidy, made up of coordinator Cindy Weiss Rogers, Kristine Miller Brennan, Angie Barrett, and Neil Russo, the fundraisers collected more than $7,000 toward the family's expenses.
After spending 21 days in the hospital over an eight week period, Bolchak said Cassidy was never once depressed over her situation.
''She still skips down the hall,'' Bolchak said.