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Jackson Noon Optimists celebrate child's cancer recovery
The best McDonald's double cheeseburger Hunter Hoxworth ever tasted was on New Year's Eve 2009.
"I ate it in three bites," said Hunter, a Jackson boy who had left that day after spending six months at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis, Tenn., for treatment of cancer.
Three months later, Hunter remembers the days of fatigue, hair and weight loss, fever and infections. But the 8-year-old and his mother, Caroline Hoxworth, said they're thankful for the support from those at the hospital and in Southeast Missouri.
Wednesday afternoon at a Jackson Noon Optimist Club luncheon, the family thanked those who played a significant role in helping them receive furniture and appliances necessary for Hunter to live in his home again. Those included Obermann and Son, which installed the furnace and air conditioning unit; ServPro, which cleaned the home; Tri-State Water Treatment, which put in air ducts and filtration system and Artisan Contracting, which helped with construction.
Caroline Hoxworth said those appliances were needed because the cancer made Hunter's immune system more susceptible to disease.
"Everything is good to go," Caroline Hoxworth told the crowd gathered at Delmonico's in Jackson. "Without you, it wouldn't."
The Jackson Noon Optimist Club originally wanted to raise enough money to pay for an electronic air filtration system, new furnace and replacement of furniture in the Hoxworth home. In December the club had $500 on hand from its fund that it normally draws from to send money each Christmas to Optimist International.
Soon after an article requesting donations was published in the Dec. 17 edition of the Southeast Missourian, club member Pat Abernathy started receiving phone calls from individuals and businesses wishing to give to the cause. While Abernathy did not give an exact amount, she said the club received much $5,000 from in-kind donations alone.
"When we started, it was scary," Abernathy said. "We didn't know what the outcome would be.
"But every day we got some kind of donation, from 10 to 2,000 dollars," she said. "It was a true community effort."
The Hoxworths first learned of Hunter's leukemia in July. While waiting for some lab results, Hunter's pediatrician, Beverly Brown, examined the youngster and found his spleen was enlarged and his liver had doubled in size.
Caroline Hoxworth drove her son to St. Louis Children's Hospital, where he was diagnosed with leukemia. The next day the Hoxworths traveled to St. Jude, where they remained through the end of December. Hunter was declared cancer-free in September.
Once they returned from Memphis, Hunter was unable to return to school. An instructor visits the Hoxworth home to teach Hunter about three hours each day.
Hunter plans to return to school full time in the fall.
Caroline Hoxworth will return to her job as a housekeeper at Saint Francis Medical Center in May on a part-time basis but will work full time at the hospital in August.
Though Hunter still has not returned to full strength, he has gained back all the weight he lost from leukemia treatments. At one time Hunter was weighed 51 pounds, down from 76 pounds.
Hunter also plans to play baseball and shoot his first turkey this year.
528 W. Main St., Jackson, MO
One Children's Place, St. Louis, MO
262 Danny Thomas Place, Memphis, TN