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Bellmore girl, 7, battling cancer inspires family's $1M fundraising goal

Members of the "Stormtroopers" team, which raised more

Members of the "Stormtroopers" team, which raised more than $5,700 for pediatric cancer research this year, shed their locks at this year's St. Baldrick's Foundation event at Jackie Reilly's in Bethpage on Sunday, March 8, 2015. Credit: Jaime Sumersille

When Kristen O’Halloran was diagnosed with with neuroblastoma around her first birthday in 2009, her family sprung into action to learn as much as they could about the disease.

Family members quickly organized the team "Kristen’s Krusade" to raise money for the St. Baldrick’s Foundation, which solely funds research for pediatric cancer.

“Pediatric cancer is so grossly underfunded,” said her mother, Mary Kay O’Halloran, of Bellmore.

Six years later, Kristen, now 7, sat giggling with friends in a booth at Jackie Reilly’s in Bethpage Sunday as the St. Baldrick’s event celebrated its fifth year. Her journey with neuroblastoma is ongoing, however, she is currently healthy, O'Halloran said.

“We are hoping to collectively raise over $500,000 after this year’s event and we are committed to keep running this event until we reach $1 million,” event organizer and Kristen’s aunt, Monica Kuchinskas, said.

The event Sunday drew more than 200 participants who shaved their heads and one 10-year-old girl who donated nine inches of her hair to Locks of Love. Kuchinskas said she and other volunteers continue to fundraise for families who are battling pediatric cancers.

Melissa Eichele, of Levittown, lost her 3-year-old son Tanner to a brain tumor in 2011. Just a month before he died, Tanner had attended the event at Jackie Reilly's and was sponsored by the team "Kids for a Kure."

“We try to do a lot in his memory,” she said.

The Eichele family is also involved in the Lexie Bean Foundation, which assists families with medical bills relating to cancer care.

“When you can’t protect your kids, you try to protect their memory,” Eichele said of her presence at this year’s event.

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