Four years ago, Courtney Selma needed help taking care of her special needs son. So she went on Care.com, a website for childcare providers and seekers, to find Ashley Weaver, an undergrad psychology student at Rowan University looking for a side job while juggling her busy schedule.
Weaver has been watching Selma’s son ever since. Having always been the type to want to help people, the relationship was a natural fit.
“I just wanted to help, really, and I feel like there’s always these kids that are going through so much and feel like they don’t have anyone, so I just felt like I wanted to be that person,” said Weaver, who added she had her own challenges throughout childhood.
Working with children was always in the cards for Weaver. Ever since preschool, she wanted to be a teacher. It wasn’t until middle or high school where she thought she could do a little more with her interest and go a little further with her education. While attending Deptford High School – where she’s currently doing her internship – she had an education class where students went to the elementary school two periods a day to be a teacher’s aid. Her teachers knew she had an interest in psychology, so they helped her find a sweet spot.
In the four years since Weaver started babysitting Selma’s son, she’s finished her undergrad in three years, gotten her master’s degree in school psychology in one year, finished a 300-hour practicum at Harrison Elementary and Pleasant Valley schools and is currently finishing her unpaid internship for her Education Specialist Degree at Deptford High School.
“I don’t think she has a minute to breathe. Her schedule’s insane,” said Selma.
Weaver has always been the one to help others, and she is paving the way to continue doing that into the future.
But right now, it’s time for others to help her.
Two cancer diagnoses within a month
At the end of summer, Ashley’s mother was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkins lymphoma. Right before she was about to start treatment, Ashley’s father was rushed to the emergency room with stomach pains. He had around four feet of his colon removed and then became septic. Within a month of her mother’s cancer diagnosis, her father was diagnosed with stage three colon cancer.
Weaver’s mother is currently in her third round of chemotherapy. Her father was in the hospital for a long time and got out a few weeks ago. He is staying with his sister-in-law, who is the full caregiver since he still has a colostomy bag and he can’t start chemotherapy until his wound heals incase of another infection, the doctors say.
When Selma heard the news, she recalls her “momma-bear instincts” kicking in because she is used to medical diagnoses for her son.
“So I instantly just go ‘OK, it’s horrible, but what can we do?’” Selma recalled.
She looked for the positive, doing a lot of research for both types of cancer and helping Weaver navigate through the process.
“I think it’s too scary to look it up by yourself if you’re hearing something like that,” said Selma.
Crowdfunding and a fundraiser
It wasn’t long until Selma started a GoFundMe page to help Weaver offset her parents’ bills. As of Oct. 10, within two months of starting the page, it has raised almost $4,000 on just the website alone. The goal is $10,000.
“Courtney has always been involved in that kind of stuff, so I’m not really surprised, but it’s just weird to be the person that it’s for,” said Weaver. “I’m always, always taking care of others in my job, at home, it’s just the way it is, so becoming that other role is very different.”
Selma didn’t stop with the GoFundMe campaign. Using her experience as a route coordinator and media relations specialist with the Memorial 100 Day Run, a charity for veterans, Selma has organized fundraiser to benefit Weaver.
“I’ve thrown a lot of charity events for the veterans, so I just thought to do something kid-related since she is so involved in the community,” said Selma.
“Kick Cancers Bum” will be held at Selma’s parents house in South Harrison Township. It is Halloween-themed and includes a photo booth, a spooky dance room for the kids and best costume contests for adults and kids. Tickets are $15 per adult, which includes food, and kids are admitted free. The fundraiser will include a raffle including prizes such as a TV, fire pit and baskets filled with gift cards and small prizes. The kids’ activities are all under $5 and include a tarot card reading, face painting, pumpkin painting, Halloween painting signs, and 50/50 to raffle off.
Tickets can be purchased online by searching “kick cancers bum” at www.eventbrite.com. If the fundraiser pushes Weaver’s GoFundMe beyond its $10,000 goal, Selma said additional proceeds may benefit a cancer-fighting charity.
Selma made sure to keep the vendors local for the event. Ferrara’s Orchards donated 30 pumpkins for kids to paint. Local photographers are coming out to take pictures for free. Those photos will be posted online, where people can download them, also free of charge. Kingsway Regional High School students are coming to help with all the games, which allows them to get their charitable “renaissance” hours for school.
The fundraiser has attracted almost 200 people so far, according to Selma.
The community support means the world to Weaver.
“It’s not about the money from the fundraiser to me. It’s about lifting my parents’ spirits right now. It’s so hard being an only child with both of them because if one’s down the other has to pick the other one up, and that’s not really happening here,” Weaver said. “They’re both down, and then here’s me in the middle and I have to stay up, but it’s hard … So it really is, to me, more important to lift the spirits than any amount of money. That’s what’s really important.”
Tickets can be purchased at www.eventbrite.com/e/kick-cancers-bum-tickets-74275519077. More information on the fundraiser, search Kick Cancers Bum on Facebook.