MARYSVILLE — At the age of 2, Jenna Susana Westerholm of Marysville was diagnosed with embryonal rhabdomyosarcoma, a cancer of the body tissues and the bone, and at the age of 5, the student of the Marysville Cooperative Education Program at Quil Ceda Elementary succumbed to her illness.
In the four years since then, Jenna’s parents have organized “The Dragon’s Last Ride” in their daughter’s memory, to give motorcycle riders an opportunity to raise money to support other children and families who are undergoing cancer treatments.
“Last year, we had 74 motorcyclists participate, and we raised around $15,000,” said Jenna’s mother, Michele Westerholm, who’s already gearing up for this year’s ride on Saturday, July 13, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Eastside Harley-Davidson, located at 14408 NE 20th St. in Bellevue.
“We received a lot of support during our daughter’s treatments,” said Chris Westerholm, who still lives with his wife in Marysville. “This is our way of giving back and paying it forward.”
According to the Westerholms, the funds raised will go toward the Jenna Westerholm Pediatric Help$ Program, which the Northwest Sarcoma Foundation will then disperse to children receiving sarcoma cancer treatment at Seattle Children’s Hospital.
“One day, Jenna didn’t have cancer, and the next day, she did,” Chris Westerholm said. “It can happen to anyone, but until it affects you, you don’t think about it. We certainly never thought our child could die of cancer.”
Not only do the Westerholms hope to raise awareness of sarcoma cancers, but they also aim to bolster the funds that are available for pediatric cancer treatments.
“Of the government grant money that goes toward cancer research, only 3 percent of it is set aside for pediatrics,” Chris Westerholm said. “So whatever money you can provide, it’s all important.”
Chris Westerholm estimated that “The Dragon’s Last Ride” provides grants of up to $500 per family, and expects that this year’s ride could assist as many as 30 families.
“We’re looking to do another ride in August,” Chris Westerholm said. “We’d like to include Anchorage in addition to Seattle, Tacoma and Portland in our coverage areas. When you go through this treatment, it consumes your life and puts it on hold.”
“Even if someone’s not a biker, anyone can join us at Outback in Everett for lunch and a raffle,” Michele Westerholm said. “We have several fundraiser events at restaurants throughout the year. All of our events are posted on our website.”
For more information, log onto www.dragonslastride.org.