SOUTHINGTON — Always in motion, Kendall Lord played on the swings and danced to live music at YMCA Camp Sloper, while hundreds of friends, family and members of the local community raised money for the local 5-year-old’s cancer treatment.
Those in attendance at Sunday’s fundraiser have formed an extended family that’s provided the support needed to help get Lord and her family through the treatment thus far, said Danielle Lord, her mother.
“Definitely people helping fight for a little girl,” she said, looking over the pavilion crowded with people wearing shirts emblazoned with her daughter’s name. The family expected around 500 people would attend the event, spread across four hours to encourage social distancing.
Local businesses and individuals donated enough raffle prizes to cover a half dozen picnic tables, the band Shed Rats provided live music and Tops Supermarket donated lunch.
In February 2019, Lord was diagnosed with Wilms' Tumor, a rare form of kidney cancer, and underwent intensive chemotherapy treatment. She was in remission by November, but the cancer relapsed a few months later and she’s been undergoing treatment for much of this year.
On Tuesday, she’ll be returning to the hospital for another round of the same intensive treatment that she was prescribed last year, however, because she’s developed additional risk factors her prognosis has worsened.
"Normally this cancer is super treatable ... but because she relapsed so quickly (the prognosis) went from 90 percent cure rate to the 10 percent cure rate. I think they knocked it down to a 5 percent chance of curing," Danielle Lord said.
The family held another fundraiser on March 10, 2019 at the Southington Fire Department’s Co. 2 firehouse on West Main Street and also raised money through shirt drives and bracelets sold at local businesses.
Some of the shirts they created said “Love needs no words” to reflect that even though Kendall Lord is autistic and non-verbal, she’s still able to show her love through the way she squeezes those around her with hugs or shares kisses and smiles.
"For somebody like you or I, we say 'I love you' and that's how we express our emotions and she can't do that," Danielle Lord said.
Kendall Lord’s father, Bryan Lord, said the money helps with the cost of surgeries, daily visits to the hospital and medications that ran upwards of $500 a week. Danielle Lord also hasn’t been able to work for a year and a half to provide care. Second home
Everywhere the Lord family goes in Southington, it seems like someone recognizes Kendall Lord and is stopping to say hello to her.
“She just radiates love and people float to her,” Danielle Lord said.
Mary Peterman, Lord’s pre-school teacher, said they were concerned about Lord returning to school this fall with a compromised immune system amid the coronavirus pandemic, but her doctors assured them that she needed to see her friends. School has become a second home for her and many of her teachers and support staff were present at Sunday’s fundraiser.
"It's been a remarkable rollercoaster ride, but Kendall's strength and determination has inspired all of us,” Peterman said. “Nothing slowed her down — whenever she was out for a bout of chemo, she came back and didn't lose skills, just raring to go and ready to learn. She is amazing.”
Laura Spagnoletti, Lord’s special education teacher, said one of Lord’s favorite parts of the day is their morning meetings, when she’s able to pick a song to dance along to. She loves anything related to music and is always in motion.
“We love having her,” she said. “ … She makes us smile and laugh every day.”