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Fourth annual Shawna’s Walk for Wishes scheduled for Sept. 21

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CANTON — In three years, Shawna’s Walk for Wishes at St. Lawrence University has grown and brought in more than $30,000 for St. Lawrence County children involved in the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

This year, organizers hope the 3-mile walk will be bigger than ever, bringing in thousands of dollars to make more wishes come true.

The fourth annual Shawna’s Walk for Wishes will be held from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sept. 21 at the university’s Newell Fieldhouse.

The day of the walk falls on the worldwide Nickelodeon Day of Play, when Nickelodeon shuts down its stations so children will go outside and play.

Julie L. Johnson, manager of St. Lawrence University’s Center for Civic Engagement, said the Kiwanis Club of Potsdam will sponsor a day of play at St. Lawrence University before the walk, which she hopes will bring in a larger crowd for the event.

“We’ll be doing that and we’re hoping to bring in more children, so they can stay and enjoy the day of the walk with all the children’s activities,” she said.

In the past, organizers focused most of the day around the walk. This year, Ms. Johnson said, they are collaborating with the school’s student organizations and some of its sports teams to bring in other activities for children to participate in, such as pie tossing, face painting and tug-of-war.

“It’s definitely going to have a lot more activities for kids, so if the kids don’t want to walk, they have a lot of stuff to keep them busy,” Ms. Johnson said.

The walk began four years ago when Shawna L. Cummings told her mother, Melissa A., that she wanted to host a walk to raise money so other children like her could be granted wishes.

“I like knowing that I’m doing a good thing for other kids with disorders sort of like mine,” Shawna said.

Shawna, 10, had a wish come true five years ago, when she and her family were flown to Orlando, Fla., to enjoy a week’s vacation at Walt Disney World.

“I wanted to meet the princesses,” she said. “It was fun. We had lunch at the castle with them.”

“They really made sure she felt special from the time we left to the time we got back,” Mrs. Cummings said.

Diagnosed with a rare metabolic disorder at two weeks old, Shawna has had a long journey into and out of hospitals over the past 10 years, Mrs. Cummings said.

After Shawna was granted her wish, the family was preparing for its trip to Florida when Shawna’s younger brother, Zachary R., was diagnosed with a mitochondrial disorder.

Mrs. Cummings said doctors told her Zachary would live only until he was 5 years old, but he’s now three years past that.

“He’ll be celebrating his eighth birthday the day after the walk,” she said.

While all of the money raised at Shawna’s walk goes to the Make-A-Wish Foundation, it goes to children in St. Lawrence County with life-threatening illnesses.

“When the community comes together and raises money, it’s nice to know that it’s going to benefit the people within that area,” Ms. Johnson said.

Mrs. Cummings said not only will the annual walks continue, but organizers are expanding their initiative.

“We’re now creating Shawna’s Wishes, so we can do other fundraisers throughout the year to help spread awareness and to keep it positive,” she said.

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