Helping Harper: A community comes together to save young girl

The family of a young Woodstock, N.B., girl who has been diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia is getting help from the community.

Harper Saunders, 3, has already undergone surgery at the IWK Health Centre in Halifax. The Saunders family are now living in Fredericton, because they cannot be more than an hour away from the Dr. Everett Chalmers Regional Hospital, in case of an emergency.

"She has her moments where she is kind of happy and she has her moments where she has been kind of traumatized a little bit with the procedures and the needles and different people being around her but she's a tough little bugger," said Becky Saunders, Harper's aunt.

Acute lymphoblastic leukemia is a type of blood cancer. After invading the blood, it can spread to other parts of the body, including major organs. It does not produce tumours like other cancers.

Saunders said Harper's parents are concerned, but they are holding things together very well. Reba Saunders is Harper's mother and Nick Saunders is her step-father. Saunders said Harper's biological father works in Woodstock and visits his daughter in Fredericton.

"They know they have a lot of support," she said.

The family will have to travel back and forth to Halifax for three years so that Harper can receive treatment.

'She is wild and crazy'

Despite her diagnosis, Saunders said Harper is full of life.

"She is wild and crazy," said Saunders. "She is always laughing and making faces, she loves the outdoors."

Saunders said she had to get Harper a fishing rod. The family picked a place that's close to the water to live.

"So she went tried out her fishing pole, she loves to go on the four-wheeler, she loves act crazy, dance and laugh. She is quite the little character."

A community effort

The community has rallied around the Saunders family, setting up a GoFundMe page for them. Several fundraisers have also been organized.

"We have a lot of businesses that have donated a lot of good auction items, we're having a silent auction," said Saunders.

"People call me left and right, just saying whatever they can do to help out." 

Christy Canam created Cookies for Harper. So far, Canam has raised $1,500 for the Saunders family.

"I know Reba from working with her probably 10 years ago," she said. "And [I] have a daughter the same age as Harper. So when I heard it really hit home that no one is immune to cancer."

She said lots of people have given her ingredients and money to continue making cookies.

Canam said the community support has been incredible. "I'm so happy they are receiving all this support."