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Planting ‘Seeds’ for Cancer Research

As a retired preschool teacher of 39 years, Connie Radovanovic has spent a lot of time listening to children. Early in her career, she began writing down funny quotes from her students as a memory book for herself and as a gift for each child at the end of the school year.

One student was Justin Spoon from Columbus. Connie had previously taught his older sister, Katie. Justin brought Katie’s picture to share with the class when they learned about the letter K, and he introduced her by saying, “She’s the best sister in town.” Connie added that quote to her memory book that year.

In addition to the lighthearted moments, Connie witnessed her students’ struggles, even as she stayed in touch with them far beyond preschool graduation. Most recently, Justin went through two and a half years of treatment for rhabdomyosarcoma (RMS), a rare type of cancer that forms in soft tissue such as muscles. He died last March at the age of 24.

Connie had other students who went through cancer treatment while they were in her class, and it impacted her deeply to watch each of their journeys. When she published a collection of her students’ quotes, titled Innocence and Wisdom of My Little Seeds. Connie dedicated the book to her students who had faced cancer, Justin among them, and donated the proceeds to pediatric cancer research in their memory.

Connie kept her donation close to home by giving to the Herman B Wells Center for Pediatric Research at the Indiana University School of Medicine. She and her husband, Rod, recently presented a check for $15,000 to Dr. Karen Pollok. Dr. Pollok leads the Caroline Symmes Laboratory which focuses on the development of new therapies for metastatic pediatric tumors like rhabdomosarcoma. “It was so uplifting,” Connie shared. “It’s been a dream [to give back], but this was really happening!”

Connie and Rod hope that their donation will be an impetus for others to give to the Wells Center. “We’ve made such great progress with other cancers, and we need to start doing something for children,” Connie said. “It’s hard to suffer as an adult, but it’s even harder as a child when your life is just beginning.”

“We need to find a cure.”