Teen's Cancer for Cash Scam Really Hurts the Sick Kids

childhood cancer
A real face of childhood cancer
If "kid with cancer" stories tend to make you sad, prepare yourself for an unusual reaction. Texas teenager Angie Gomez told the world she had leukemia that was going to kill her. Kind people responded with donations that totalled $17,000 to help her fight the disease. And now police are saying she made the whole thing up. She's not dying; she's facing felony charges.

Childhood cancer stories usually make me cry and open my wallet -- especially now, in September, Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. Angie Gomez's story makes me angry. Angry on behalf of the people she duped, but even angrier on behalf of the kids she's hurting. You hurt kids, and I get mad. You hurt kids with cancer, and I get all "don't mess with me, I'm a mama bear willing to take on that big ol' gun with my crazy eyes and my big teeth."

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As the fake cancer kid story spreads nationwide, it will inevitably harden hearts. It will make people wary of reaching into their back pockets and giving to help one of the 160,000 children diagnosed every year in this country. In our -- let's just say it -- craptastic economy, people are looking for any excuse they can find to cut costs, and Angie Gomez just gave them one.

But the very reason she was able to raise so much money is because the typical needs of a kid with cancer are so vast. Even families that carry health insurance have co-pays and deductibles to deal with. And then there are the non-health related costs. The gas to drive to and from the doctor's office every day. The hotel stays because often kids need treatment not at their local hospital but from a special pediatric oncology center. The regular day-to-day household bills because Mom and Dad are forced to take time off work to be with their sick child.

These are the costs most often covered by good-hearted members of a community pulling together on behalf of a child. Living in a small town, I've seen it time and again. Several years ago, I even threw a fundraiser for one of these kids. A ziti dinner, based entirely on donations of ziti from people in the community, who more often than not also paid the entrance fee to eat at the dinner just to help the kindergartner with leukemia. We raised thousands of dollars that day. Thousands. In a small town. Because people saw a child who needed their help. 

When someone fakes cancer for cash, they aren't just hurting the good people who rush to their aid. They're hurting every kid down the line who won't get a piece of that goodwill because someone sick and twisted took advantage of the goodness of man and ruined it for the rest of them, ruined it for the kids who could use it most.

Angie Gomez didn't just hurt kids. She hurt sick kids. With CANCER! Makes you want to go all crazy mama bear on her, am I right?

Do you donate when a kid with cancer needs your help? How do these stories affect your willingness to pull out your wallet?

 

Image via conner395/Flickr

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