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March 18. 2014 7:13PM

NH gymnasts rally around pair fighting cancer

As gymnasts from around the region gather in Durham this weekend, they won’t forget battles being waged by two members of their extended family.

On Friday, during the Levels 9-10 championship at the University of New Hampshire’s Whittemore Center in Durham, members of New Hampshire USA Gymnastics (NH-USAG) will kick off their annual campaign for cancer awareness.

This year’s campaign will benefit Nicole Jacques, a member of A2 Gymnastics & Cheer in Pelham and Soren Cooper, a member of Tri-Star Gymnastics & Dance in Dover.

Both Jacques and Cooper are battling cancer.

Nicole, an eighth-grader at Hudson Memorial School and a cheerleader with A2, was diagnosed with liver cancer in February.

Earlier this year, after a month of onset headaches and dizziness, Jacques and her family initially thought she might have low iron or sugar levels. Blood work came back normal, but pain on her side and difficulty breathing led Jacques to Boston Children’s Hospital where further testing revealed cancer in her liver, abdomen, and lungs.

She is undergoing treatment to shrink the tumors enough to be surgically removed.

“She’s had some good days along with some bad days on this treatment plan,” family spokesman Camille Vaillancourt said last week.

Nicole’s family and friends have been raising money via the Go Fund Me website to further assist with ongoing medical expenses. As of Tuesday afternoon, more than $34,000 had been raised via the “Cheer 4 Nicole” page.

Soren, a first-grader at Berwick Academy and member of the recreational team at Tri-Star, was diagnosed with Burkitt’s lymphoma, a rare form of blood cancer. Changes in Cooper’s voice and severe stomachaches drew attention to Cooper’s medical condition.

Additional testing revealed cancer in his throat, intestines, kidneys and liver.

After months of chemotherapy, Cooper is now in remission and makes monthly trips to Dana Farber to monitor his progress.

Jennifer Pelland, event spokesman for the NH-USAG fundraiser, said this is the second year the organization has banded together to help one of its own.

During last year’s championship season, a total of $1,700 was raised at one of the state meets to benefit the family of Claire Ellis, a Stratham mother undergoing treatments for stage three colon cancer.

“This is our second year honoring a member of our gymnastics community,” Pelland said on Tuesday. “With three state championships coming up, I’d love to raise at least $3,000 this year.”

NH-USAG will be hosting 50/50 raffles, concession stands and cash donation drop-offs during their three upcoming meets, starting with this weekend’s event, the Levels 9-10 championship meet in Durham.

Fundraising efforts will continue the weekend of April 4 during the Levels 3-8 championship meet at Sanborn Regional High School in Kingston and the weekend of May 16 at the Xcel Championship meet at Portsmouth High School.

Those wishing to donate toward the cause but are unable to attend one of the events are encouraged to send donations directly to: Jennifer Pelland, c/o Atlantic Gymnastics, Gosling Road, Portsmouth, NH 03801. Please make checks payable to NH-USAG Cancer Campaign.

aguilmet@newstote.com


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