Stop Children's Cancer holds 22nd annual Holiday Traditions musical celebration

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GAINESVILLE, Fla., (WCJB) -- The Holidays are a time for tradition.

So with that in mind, the Stop Children's Cancer, Inc. organization has made a tradition of trying to eliminate pediatric cancer. To that end, they held their 22nd Annual Holiday Tradition: A Musical Celebration event on Sunday evening, December 9, 2018, at the Phillips Center for the Performing Arts in Gainesville.

The event was based on the idea of kids helping kids, so the performers were: the Alachua Youth Orchestra, Eastside High School Concert Choir, Buchholz High School Select Choir, P.K. Yonge Vocal Ensemble and The Gainesville Youth Chorus, Concertina and Concert Choirs. They all came out to play and sing to help raise awareness and funds to help fund children's cancer research.

Co-founder Howard Freeman says that this event isn't one of their biggest fundraiser of the year, but its special in its own way.

""I'll get kids back, 5, 10, 15 years after they've been on that stage and they've told me what a wonderful experience they had." said Freeman.

Howard Freeman and his wife, Laurel, started Stop Children's Cancer Inc. alongside their daughter, Bonnie, back in 1981. Bonnie was 10 years old at the time, and had been diagnosed with Leukemia.

"She said, 'Dad, Mom' and her sister Carolin, 'let's go ahead and raise money to help other kids." said Howard about his daughter.

Bonnie died just two years later, at the age of 12, but the process that she started lived on.

The original plan was to raise 1 million dollars for children's cancer research, but Howard says that the organization has been able to do even better than that.

"We give $150,000 a year for clinical trials." said Howard. "That the clinical trials guarantee is that every child being treated at UF Health for cancer has the opportunity to be getting the best type of medicine possible and to be on the best regimen that they can be, to be successful as possible in their lives."

Sunday's event is expected to raise about $20,000, but Howard Freeman says that seeing this many kids together focused on the cause his daughter cared about, is the best part.

"It makes me feel great. I mean, I'll always miss Bonnie, I'll always have my love for her, but it makes me feel so good, seeing the kids today."