4You: Friends Of Kids With Cancer’s tutoring program

Young students not letting anything stand in their way, including a cancer diagnosis.
Published: May. 17, 2023 at 7:12 PM CDT
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ST. LOUIS (KMOV) -- Young students not letting anything stand in their way, including a cancer diagnosis. The education program at Friends of Kids with Cancer helps kids look to the future, despite feeling too sick to keep up with school.

Lasondra’s children take part in the tutoring program.

She told News 4, “It was a blessing to learn that an organization like this existed at a time where you can’t think straight to look for resources yourself.”

For her twin sons William and Maurice, the classroom at the organization’s office in Maplewood has become one of their favorite spaces. But what connected them to this room started two years ago.

Lasondra said, “I was in nursing school studying about cancer, and he had a lump under his arm.”

William underwent weeks of tests before he was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma. They got started with treatment at Mercy Hospital. That’s when Friends of Kids came into the picture.

“It started with the toy closet and like lunch cards for us to go out to eat afterward because we would be there all day for treatments,” Lasondra said.

Treatment not only took a toll on the family, it impacted William’s school work.

His mother recalled, “He didn’t have the energy to stay awake during class and having days where he just wasn’t there at all, he missed a lot.”

“Sometimes there’s not 100% because they’re not feeling 100% and that’s okay,” said Carol Austerman, a tutor at Friends of Kids with Cancer.

Austerman has worked at the organization for two years. She had been retired after decades of teaching in the Parkway School District when she saw a social media post about the man who started the education program at Friends of Kids.

“She happened to mention on a Facebook post about Mr. Tom passing and they were looking for new staff and I looked at it and thought wow that sounds perfect,” she remembered.

The classroom Austerman now teaches in, is named for Tom Mulvihill after he himself died from cancer.

“I thought wow those are big shoes to fill,” said Austerman.

William and Maurice can’t give her enough praise, telling News 4, “she is nice, happy, kindful, playful, and, so, thank you for having her here.”

William said of Friends of Kids with Cancer, “I like how they make sure kids, they’re okay and make sure kids are okay when they’re down and hurt.”

William’s mother Lasondra said, “They have to be angels sent by God Himself to do what they’re doing. Because it’s kids and it’s cancer and it’s different kinds of cancer and different backgrounds. It can touch anybody.”

William is now in remission. The tutoring program at Friends of Kids with Cancer is offered in the office and through virtual sessions at no cost to patients or families