Teen leukemia patient needs help

By Sylvia Hall - bio | email

MOSS POINT, MS (WLOX) - If you drive through the intersection of Jefferson Avenue and Second Street in Moss Point on any Saturday, you'll notice that it's alive with activity. People of all ages and wearing matching blue shirts stand on the corners, hold signs, and shout for people to stop and donate.

Drivers can also stop in and pick up fried chicken or fish plate lunches to go. The streetside fundraiser isn't like most of them.  A 16-year-old girl's health depends on what's picked up.

"I never thought I had cancer," Whitney Shelton said.

Only a few months ago, Whitney was a normal 10th grader at Moss Point High School, studying hard to get into college, then go on to become a nurse. But that all changed when she was diagnosed with leukemia in December. Now, her day-to-day reality is much different.

"She's admitted to the hospital like every two weeks for chemo, and she's going every week for checkups to the cancer clinic," explained her mother, Josette Kelly.

Kelly gave up her job to care for her daughter while she's sick. Kelly explains that Shelton will go through treatment in Jackson for the next few years, then she'll need a bone marrow transplant.

Her brother is her donor, but he doesn't have insurance. That leaves the family with a big medical bill in the future and no way to pay it alone.

"We sent out letters to churches, but we didn't receive any responses," explained Whitney's godmother Barbara Molden. "So we knew we had to get out here and do what we had to do."

The Saturday fundraisers are part of the plan. They have already raised nearly $3,000. Family and friends say Whitney deserves the support.

"She's always been the babysitter," said Whitney's aunt Maxine Riley. "She helps out with the kids when we want to go somewhere, but now we've got to babysit her."

Kelly thanks the community for their support through this rough time.

"It's been a big blessing," she said. "You know, we thank everybody for everything, you know every little bit helps."

"It's nice that the community is as giving as they are," said family friend Juanitta Ward. "But keep giving, keep giving everybody, we need your help!"

Everyone at the fundraiser said they thought Whitney was a true inspiration to them.

"What inspires us is watching her," said Molden. "She is so strong with all, she's bright with it, you'll see her smile from day to day with it. And she tells us she's not scared. She's not scared at all. So that's what helps us be strong for her."

Whitney is determined to stay in school through her treatment. Anyone who wants to help can swing by Jefferson Avenue and Second Street next Saturday or go to any Hancock Bank location. Just say you want to donate to Whitney Shelton's benefit fund.

The family is also planning benefits, but haven't nailed down any dates yet.

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