Shining Star: Kids Rodeo Round-Up on Saturday will raise money for Star Nuckolls Foundation and help cancer victims

By FAITH HUFFMAN | News-Telegram News Editor

June 22, 2007 - Star Nuckolls may have died in 2005, but the legacy of the little girl with the big heart who shone her light on so many continues to live on today in the foundation started in her memory.

Staff Photo by Angela PItts

Star Foundation President Roy King, grandfather of Star Nuckolls, and board of directors member Carolyn McKinney decorate for the Kids Rodeo Round-Up that will be held Saturday in the Hopkins County Regional Civic Center Arena from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. to benefit the Star Nuckolls Foundation.

Last year, the Star Nuckolls Foundation Inc. was able to provide $10,284 to help cancer patients within the community with expenses.

However, foundation funds are getting low so the four-person Star Foundation board of directors is hosting a Kids Rodeo Round-Up on Saturday to raise funds to continue assisting other cancer patients.

Kids Rodeo Round-Up is geared toward children and families. The benefit begins at 10 a.m. Saturday and continues at 1 p.m. in Hopkins County Regional Civic Center Arena. A $10 per person admission fee will not only pay for popcorn, hot dogs, chips, drinks, ice cream and games, but will also help cancer patients with expenses associated with their treatment.

Prizes will be awarded for all events, which include balloon races, a duck pond, roping, a hay ride, sack races, horseshoes, washer toss, face painting, bean bag toss, milk bottle throw, a jump house and pony ride.

"We are asking the community to please come, bring the kids and help us help others, just as Star would want us to," said Carolyn McKinney, a member of the Star Nuckolls Foundation Inc. Board of Directors. "Star's mom's desire was for something positive to come from Star's death, and she along with the board of directors feels the foundation is a positive thing for cancer patients in the community. The funds are getting low, so the board has elected to have a fundraiser to raise money so cancer patients within our community can be helped."

Although her life was short, Star Nuckolls brought the community together for a common purpose as very few people or causes have. Star was only 4 years old when she died at 6:30 a.m. Feb. 7, 2005, after losing an eight-month battle with cancer.

Star's parents first were alerted something was wrong with their "shining star" on June 14, 2004, when her babysitter notified mom Kari that she had found blood in her urine. Kari took star to see Dr. Tod Conner, who after noting Star's abnormally high blood pressure, admitted her to the hospital for tests. The next day a CAT scan revealed a tumor. She was transferred to M.D. Anderson Cancer Hospital in Houston where she underwent surgery to remove a tumor the size of a cantaloupe. Physicians diagnosed Star with Wilm's tumor, stage 4, with "unfavorable histology."

Despite trips to M.D. Anderson for numerous chemotherapy and radiation treatments, more tumors began showing up. Physicians tried different treatments, but they didn't work.

"Even through the number of hospitalizations, tests, thousands of needles, dehydration, and the long trips to the doctor, Star never lost her laughter, her energy and the desire to share her love with everyone she came in contact with," McKinney noted. "If it were not for her little head, you would not have known she was in stage 4 Wilm's tumor and undergoing treatments. Star was without a doubt not only a 'shining star' to her family, but she had become a shining star to her community. Even during her last few hours of life, she was continually telling her family that she loved them."

Throughout her battle, several fundraisers were held to help Star and her family with medical, gas, food and many other expenses for the trips to Houston. One included the selling of purple stars, yard signs to show support for Star.

Although Star is gone, her light was not dimmed. Not only can the purple stars still be seen throughout Sulphur Springs and Hopkins County, but the spirit of light in giving continues through the foundation established in her name.

After paying all expenses associated with Star's rigorous 8-month illness, there were still funds left over. Wanting to do something to give back to the community that "had so lovingly and generously given to Star," Star's mother, Kari Smith, established the Star Nuckolls Foundation Inc.

"The reason I wanted to start the fund was to give back to the community that gave so much to us when Star was sick," Smith said. "They gave so much to us emotionally and financially. I hope that this will keep Star's legacy going, keep her remembered. If we can make something positive come out of her death if we do something good to help out others in the situation we were in, it will make it easier for me to go on.

"It's impossible to move forward when you lose a child without that," she added. "The fund is in her memory. It allows me to heal and do positive things in her memory and help others. She was such a special child. I view this as my opportunity to tell the community 'thank you' for the ways they helped us by helping others in Star's name."

The fund is set up specifically to assist local cancer patients with expenses incurred while they are going through treatments. The money can be used for utilities, food, treatments, gas or other expenses.

The board of directors regulates the fund and reviews, discusses and votes on applications from cancer patients requesting help.

Last year, the Star Foundation Inc. was able to give six grants to five different people, with one person benefiting from two separate grants. Only one person who applied for funding from Star Foundation Inc. was turned down, and then only because their illness was not cancer-related, which is part of the foundation's stated mission.

"Right now, we don't have any applications for assistance, but we're expecting one soon," said Roy King, Star's grandfather who is also helping coordinate the Kids Rodeo Round-up.

For applications to apply for helpor to make donations to Star Nuckolls Foundation, contact Roy King or Ricky Reynolds at City National Bank, or get in touch with Cindy Braddy.

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