Olivia Barr: A 10-Year-Old With a Goal to Kick Colon Cancer
In April 2011, Olivia Barr’s mother, Erika Cooper, died of colon cancer at age 33. Diagnosed when Olivia was 3, “Erika was given less than one year, yet she lived for five,” states Olivia’s aunt, Kelly Barr, who resides with Olivia and Olivia’s father, Joe, in North Canton, Ohio. “Erika had a fighting spirit.”
A few weeks after Erika passed away, Olivia saw a TV commercial about a walk to combat breast cancer. “Mom liked to make us laugh and taught me a lot of things, including arts, crafts and painting,” says Olivia, who’s now 10 and a fifth grader at Lake Cable Elementary School in North Canton. So Olivia decided to put her creative heritage to use, organizing the first Kid’s Walk fundraiser against colon cancer.
“Olivia loves soccer and volleyball, and wanted her friends to be involved,” explains Kelly. So Kelly and Olivia came up with KICR—Kids Involved in Cancer Research, a nonprofit, 501(c)(3)-pending organization. Over a period of two months and “with a lot of help from family and friends,” they set up a website, designed a logo of a youngster kicking a ball, and filmed a YouTube video. The inaugural three-mile Kids’ Walk, held at Catholic Central High School in Canton on July 23, 2011, was a big success, raising nearly $5,100 with more than 50 participants, many of whom were children. All proceeds went to colon cancer research at The James.
This year, with corporate sponsors and nearly 60 walkers, the Walk easily met the goal of $7,500. “Olivia and her friends got together for Friday night committee meetings, came up with activities at the end of every mile, and made signs and thank-you cards, in addition to putting together swag bags,” adds Kelly proudly.
“We wanted to make it fun,” remarks Olivia. So with members of Ohio State’s women’s soccer team cheering them on, participants got to kick a ball through cones, explore a makeshift colon, and earn tickets for prizes, and received workout challenges and tips on healthy meals. At the end of the course, they encountered a squirt gunwielding Tanios Bekaii-Saab, MD, a physician at The James who also spoke about colon cancer prevention.
The Barrs plan to continue the Kids’ Walk as an annual event and hope to amass a total of $100,000 for research by the time Olivia is 18. “We’re thrilled with the response— it’s been a good motivator for all of us,” says Kelly.