Two teenagers make very adult decisions to take care of not only each other but each other’s families as well.
Tony Colton and Ashley Krueger met at All Children’s Hospital in St. Petersburg, FL, where they were both being treated for cancer. Though often confined to their hospital beds, an unlikely friendship formed. “We make each other laugh, which is important,” said Ashley, “because sometimes that’s just what you need.”
Tony, 13, and Ashley, 18, texted frequently and messaged each other on Facebook several times a day, like most teenagers do. Their parents would take pictures of the pair of them throughout their treatments–Tony had a rare form of kidney cancer and Ashley had bone cancer–and even when they were both in remission for a brief period in 2012, they remained friends.
In September of that year, though, Ashley was diagnosed with T-cell lymphoma and needed a bone marrow transplant. During her treatment, she would be in isolation, but Tony knew how her family would be suffering financially in the mean time: “Car payments, their house payments, little tweaks and stuff that they had to fix around the house before Ashley comes back from her bone marrow transplant,” he said, and the 13-year-old became committed to helping his friend’s family.
He gathered donations during a garage sale and a car wash, and then he opened an account on Give Forward, a site which raises money for people with medical bills.
In mere months, Tony raised $25,000 for Ashley.
Pat Myers, Ashley’s mom, was overwhelmed by the gesture. She had quite her job as a website programmer in order to care for Ashley, which made Tony’s fundraising all the more meaningful to her and her family.
Though Myers hoped that Tony’s family would never be in her place, it was only two weeks before Tony discovered his cancer had returned and that he would need to be treated in Bethesda, MD, at the National Institutes of Health. Ashley, still in the hospital herself, immediately began her own fundraiser.
“Tony did this for me, I have to do this for him,” Ashley, who is still in isolation following a bone marrow transplant, told her mother. On her own Give Forward page for Tony, which has raised nearly $6,000, Ashley says, “This is a favor I wish I never had to pay back. But I do, because Tony is special, important, and a remarkable young man who has fought bravely against his cancer.”
Myers said that in Ashley’s first year of cancer, their family spent more than $40,000, and though insurance paid for most of the treatment, it did not cover the mortgage or $1,000 in monthly bills for gas to and from the hospital.
Connie Colton, Tony’s mom, has similar frustrations. She said her family’s church and online fundraisers, like Ashley’s, have been instrumental in helping with paying for what insurance can not. Colton is a retired government employee who now works part-time, and with this knowledge Ashley and her mother aim to raise $30,000 before July to help the Colton family with travel expenses and bills. So far, she’s raised $3,700.
For two teenagers of such differing ages to become such close friends is in itself unlikely; that they would then take it upon themselves to take care of each other’s families is simply amazing. “It shows that even if you’re a kid, you can make a huge difference for someone,” said Nate St. Pierre, the spokesman for Chicago-based Give Forward. “It’s so cool to see this, kids helping kids.”
To help Ashley and Tony with their goals, donate at their Give Forward pages
Ashley’s Give Forward Page: https://www.giveforward.com/fundraiser/dhg1/ashleysjourney
Tony’s Give Forward Page: https://www.giveforward.com/fundraiser/z4x1/tonystriumph
Photo: AP/Connie Colton