When Roz Eiswirth was diagnosed with breast cancer in July 2009, she knew her family would be upset.
She didn’t know that her 10-year-old granddaughter, Dani Templet, would take such an active role in her recovery and in raising the community’s awareness of breast cancer.
“My Nana had breast cancer and I just hated that,” Dani said. “I needed to do something.”
Seven months after Eiswirth’s diagnosis, Dani has educated her classmates about breast cancer and has raised over $800 for the Cancer Crusaders of New Orleans, a non-profit in-state organization to raise money for cancer research.
“We are just so overwhelmed,” Eiswirth said. “She’s a very special little girl.”
Eiswirth first told her family about her diagnosis while on a camping trip in Grand Isle.
“When we first told them, (Dani) was really upset with the word cancer. We explained that it was early stage and that I was going to do well with it, but she was very upset,” Eiswirth said.
Dani first started making breast cancer awareness bracelets and pins for her classmates and teachers at Lakewood Elementary School.
“The kids were terrified – cancer is an extremely scary word, but cancer isn’t a death sentence anymore,” said Stephanie Templet, Dani’s mom. “Immediately, she just wanted to do something and she knew that the pink ribbon was the breast cancer thing.”
Dani didn’t stop at making bracelets.
She used the knitting skills that her “Nana” had taught her to knit chemotherapy caps for cancer patients and used school assignments to raise awareness.
“(My classmates) didn’t know about breast cancer. They thought it was just cancer with a word in front of it,” Dani said. “But they supported me the whole way.”
Dani spoke with other students and teachers about breast cancer whenever possible.
“Anytime they would make an assignment, she’d make it fit with breast cancer. She had to write a personal letter, so she wrote it to the teacher’s son who works in a lab for cancer research,” Templet said.
After all of her writing and bracelet-making, Dani started to think bigger.
After learning about fundraisers from other organizations she was involved with, Dani decided to set one up for cancer research.
She placed coin collection bottles in area businesses and then spoke with Lakewood Elementary principal, Kevin Barney, about starting a school-wide collection.
Barney agreed, offering a challenge between the grade levels for who could raise the most.
She made daily announcements over the school’s intercom system asking for donations from her classmates.
Dani’s fifth grade class won the challenge.
“When she puts her mind to it, she does it. I call her my ‘I can’ girl,” Templet said. “She will never let me help her. Even when she was little, she wouldn’t let me help her with anything.”
Dani said she only expected to raise a few hundred dollars.
“This is a big school and I knew I would get some people to think about it,” Dani said.
On Feb. 4 with her entire class dressed in pink, Dani presented a check to the Cancer Crusaders for over $800.
“As a survivor myself, I thought this was a great thing,” said Judy Hof, a co-president elect for the Cancer Crusaders of New Orleans. “This just goes to show you that there are still good kids out there.”
Now that the fundraiser is over and Eiswirth is in recovery, Dani isn’t sure what she will do next. But she does know one thing: she isn’t going to quit.