Extraordinary young woman makes a difference for the animals
By Kevin Lambert
In some ways Skyler Kleger is a typical thirteen-year-old, full of the worries, hopes, and dreams that affect most adolescent girls at one time or another. In other ways, she is most unique. As a seasoned veteran of the ongoing fight against cancer, Skyler was chosen as the spokesperson for the 12th Annual Paws for the Cause Dog Walk at the Fox Chase Cancer Center (FCCC) in Philadelphia. In the span of only a few months, this horrible disease cast its dark shadow first upon her mother, and then her grandmother.
“Skyler is so much more mature than I was at that age,” says her mom, Karen Kleger, currently in remission and feeling as good as ever since her treatment at FCCC in 2007. “After my mother died, I took Skyler to the cemetery to see her and she became hysterical. I told her, ‘Honey I can’t take you here anymore, it’s too much for you.’ But she told me she was crying for me, because she felt so awful that I don’t have a mom. And it absolutely kills her that my dad is living alone. She is totally selfless and extremely protective. It’s hard to believe she’s only thirteen.”
Having experienced the helplessness, fear, and uncertainty of cancer, all the while maintaining an irrepressible spirit and fierce love for her family, Skyler made an impression on the staff at the FCCC. Among them is Lisa Bailey, Director of Social Networking Communications, who has helped organize and plan Paws for the Cause for the past two years.
Passionate about animals, especially the importance of rescue and adoption, when it was time for Skyler to choose her Bat Mitzvah project she looked no further than the Paws for the Cause. The annual walk celebrates the animal-assisted therapy program at FCCC, while raising money for a great cause. “It was a natural choice for Skyler and her adopted dog, Cooper, to be our spokesperson and spokespet this year, Bailey says. “She is a remarkable young woman and she’s been doing a great job getting her friends and other young people involved.”
Karen is honored that her daughter is giving back to the FCCC after they helped her and her mother so much. “Skyler is promoting the walk, and sharing our story and Cooper’s story, too. He came to us from Animal Lifeline in Warrington (AnimalLifelineOnline.org) and he is a big part of our family.” In addition to raising awareness, Skyler has set a personal goal of raising $1800, and is doing so with bake sales, bracelet sales, sponsors, and other creative methods.
Maryann Krajkowski, founder of the event, loves that it is a win-win for people and animals alike. “PetSmart, the PSPCA, and other rescue groups come out to Paws for the Cause,” she says. “Our first year, back in 1999, former Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell took time out of his busy schedule to show his support.” Since then, the event has continued to grow and raise much-needed funds. This year they are expecting about 200 dogs to come and join in the fun. It is a wonderful family-friendly event and a great way for kids to feel included and make a difference for the animals. There are contests, giveaways, and treats for dogs and people alike. According to Krajkowski, one of the highlights of the day is when the dog who has made the biggest impact in the FCCC dog-therapy program is recognized as the “special contributor of the year.”
At press time, Skyler had raised $1,050. But with her determination and strong spirit, no doubt she will meet and surpass her goal!
For more information or to donate, please visit: FCCC.edu