In 2015 the Wallace household was changed forever. That’s when they lost Afton Wallace, 18, to Ewing’s Sarcoma, a rare form of pediatric cancer.
“Afton was a force of nature,” said Rob Wallace, Afton’s father. “When she put her mind to something she accomplished it. … She decided that she wanted to sing in the show choir at Warren Central High School, join the swim team and play the flute in the band. She did all of those things, and she did them well. Even during her senior year when she was going through chemotherapy, surgeries and taking all of her medicine, she still finished high school in the top 10 of her class.”
Since Afton’s death, the Wallace family has raised money for pediatric cancer research through several different outlets including the annual Splash for Gold swim meet during September, which is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. This year’s meet will be held at the Vicksburg City Pool (900 Lee St.) Sept. 21 starting at 10 a.m.
“Afton was a swimmer, and she loved swimming,” Wallace said. “She was very involved in the swim community in Mississippi over the span of 10 years, and she was a great swimmer. As a sophomore, she was fourth fastest in the state, and then she got sick and couldn’t get any faster, but one of the last things she wanted to do was race again. So we worked really hard with her to get her back in the pool to race, and she ended up racing in the last meet of the season her senior year even though she had all types of physical problems.”
The Wallace’s dedication to raising awareness of pediatric cancer has not gone unnoticed. Vicksburg Mayor George Flaggs Jr. declared Sept. 20 and 21 Afton Wallace Pediatric Cancer Awareness days.
“We’re honored but also devastated that this even had to be required,” Wallace said. “But we’re very honored that people still remember her in our community. We’re grateful to the mayor for bringing attention to pediatric cancer. There’s too many children that suffer from cancer.”
Although a lot of money is spent on cancer research, only about 4 percent of it goes toward pediatric cancer, because it affects a small number of people. Though awareness for childhood cancer is rising, Wallace believes that there is only one way to help put an end to it, and that is through more funding.
“We don’t want any other child to go through the hell that Afton had to endure,” he said.
“We’re making such great advances when it comes to understanding cancer. One thing that I didn’t know is that cancer is not just one disease, but it’s many.”
Wallace is encouraging everyone to help raise awareness of pediatric cancer by wearing gold Sept. 20 and 21. My Mission is Remission, the nonprofit the Wallace’s organized to help raise funds for research, is selling gold T-shirts to further the cause. To purchase a T-shirt, visit www.splash4gold.org. Visit the My Mission is Remission website and Facebook page for more information.
“I don’t want the memory of her to fade,” said Afton’s father. “That’s the most important thing to a grieving parent.”