MANATEE -- In Florida, only three doctors specialize in pediatric brain cancer. Across the country, there are only 50 to 65 such specialists, officials say.
For families with children who have brain cancer, that often means long trips to see specialists or seek treatment. The cost adds up quickly.
And that's where the Payton Wright Foundation comes in.
The nonprofit started after Patrick and Holly Wright's 5-year-old daughter, Payton, died in 2007 from brain cancer. While about 10 percent of its funding goes toward research, the nonprofit is focused on helping families financially as they undergo treatment.
"Financial hardship sets in very quickly," Holly said.
The families send bills directly to Holly, who writes a check and pays the hospitals and doctors herself. There's no cap to the amount the foundation will give, Holly said, and they don't see much abuse in the system. Even with doctors' bills, the No. 1 request for assistance from the families is for gas money to make the trips.
On Monday, the Wrights were given a $10,000 boost from the Rowlett Academy for Arts and Communica
tion K-Kids Club -- an elementary level leadership and service organization sponsored by Kiwanis.
"Wow," Holly said, as students presented them with the check for a grand total of $10,738.82.
Her husband, Patrick, silently mouthed, "Oh my gosh."
Although the Wrights are based in Florida -- they moved here in 2003 from Pennsylvania -- money goes across the country to help children and their families.
For the next few months, as the Rowlett money is dispersed, the family will keep the school up-to-date on where the money is going and who it's helping.
"That way, they can feel 'Oh, we did that,'" Holly said.
The K-Kids club at the school led the two-week effort, challenging students to bring in their loose change to help the effort.
K-Kids students visited classrooms and ran a competition throughout the school to see which classes raised the most money. The top two classrooms were separated by only 71 cents -- so they both won a pizza party.
Kim Klaassee, a teacher and a K-Kids adviser, said the students got really involved, with one running a lemonade stand and another donating money he earned from walking his grandfather's dog.
It took the students in the K-Kids club two days to count the money and roll the change before the donation on Monday.
"It was really, really hard but we pushed through," said 10-year-old Lexia Dunbar, a fifth-grader and the club's secretary.
The fundraiser served as an important reminder for students to be aware of their own health, and to help other children, said club vice president Autymn Prater, a 10-year-old fourth-grader.
"We thought about our own health, and we just wanted to go out there and help some people," she said.
This is the first year Rowlett has held a fundraiser for the foundation, and the K-Kids advisers -- Klaassee, Punchie Bradshaw and Temika Lyons -- are already preparing for next year.
They want to hold the fundraiser as a challenge against another school, to help spread the word and raise more money.
"It's great to see them get involved, they fight over it. The competition is great," Patrick Wright said.
Meghin Delaney, education reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7081. Follow her on Twitter @MeghinDelaney.