Sydney Snyder, 16, met Collin Rowley when they were in the seventh grade and lived close to each other.
“He’s my go-to person, and I am for him,” Snyder said. “We’re just really close. I consider him my best friend in the entire world.”
Rowley, who is now 16, was diagnosed with cancer in their freshman year of high school. Snyder said Rowley had to go to Denver to receive chemotherapy and surgery and was eventually put into remission. But after doing a routine spinal tap to check if the cancer had come back, Rowley got the news all cancer survivors fear.
“It came back, and they found three cancer cells,” Snyder said. “They found it to be recurrent medulloblastoma, which is one of the most aggressive brain cancers you can have.”
Rowley was given 6 to 12 months to live and started receiving experimental treatments in Utah. Back in Manhattan, Snyder, along with her church’s youth group, started working on a project to help her friend.
Cameron Ward is the youth director at First Presbyterian Church. When the semester started in August, he challenged his class to look for a non-profit or fundraiser for a community service project.
Sydney Snyder was in that class, and she heard the challenge.
“She told us about her friend Collin Rowely who used to participate in our youth programs,” Ward said. “We came up with the idea to raise money for Collin. And talking through it, a few of the kids and I came up with the idea of doing an event.”
They organized live auction, which took place Nov. 4. Attendees bought tickets, placed bids on donated items, and saw K-State Football Coach Bill Snyder. Rowley attended from Utah via Skype.
The money raised from the auction, along with the funds from the website, giveforward.com/collinscause, also started by Snyder, will go to Rowley’s family to help pay for his expensive medical bills.
“I think it’s tough because there aren’t good options,” Ward said. “They have exhausted every single option for his treatment. His mother basically lost her job to take care of him, and when his parents separated his mother took on the financial burden of the insurance.”
Ward said that because Rowley’s treatment, which requires withdrawing spinal fluid out and replacing it with chemotherapy drugs, is experimental. That means it’s not covered by the family’s insurance.
That’s where the website comes in. It collects monetary donations in any amount for Rowley’s family.
At first, Snyder said she was just hoping to get a few thousand dollars together, but when learning about the towering medical bills, she decided that more needed to be done.
“It just didn’t seem like that much money,” Snyder said. So she tried to shoot for a goal of $15,000.
Once she got there, she decided to try for $20,000. Right now, the fundraiser is sitting at around $23,000. Snyder hopes to get $50,000 before the Fiesta Bowl game on Jan. 3.
“We decided to start this cause just to make sure they didn’t have to worry about paying medical bills,” Snyder said. “His family could worry more about saving his life.”
Snyder said that the outpouring of support she has seen from the community is “outstanding,” and she never imagined that this fundraiser would collect as much money as it did. But perhaps more importantly, the comments and prayers people have left are giving Rowley hope.
“My nephew beat Stage 4 brain cancer at age 16. It was a hard battle and every day counts. We are praying for you and those caring for you.”
“From a cancer survivor: You have to keep the faith. Be strong and positive.”
“I am a mother of two little boys. I can’t imagine what you’re going through. Your family is in my prayers. Stay strong. God is good!!!”
“Keep fighting, Collin. I am also a brain cancer survivor. I was diagnosed in college at K-State (2008) and went through surgery/chemo/radiation as well. I know you have a tough road ahead. Pray with God and envision yourself with a whole, healthy, and bright future.”
“Clear eyes, full heart; Can’t Lose!”
“I didn’t expect people to come together like they have,” Snyder said. “Those comments (on the website), every time we get a new one I send it to him and those mean more than almost the money. He gets so much hope from knowing that people are praying for him and thinking about him. It helps beyond belief.”
Snyder said that this entire experience has changed her life.
“We’ve had two other kids in our class who have unfortunately lost their lives. Those affected me somewhat, but nothing has really affected me like the feeling that I am going to lose my best friend,” Snyder said.