The slogan on her pink T-shirt reads, “Though she be little, she is fierce.”
Those are appropriate words to describe Ainsley Peters, a 4-year-old who has endured much more hardship than most youngsters her age. She is a leukemia survivor.
Ainsley is the daughter of Chris and Andrea Peters of Stillwater, and Andrea clearly remembers the early indications that something wasn’t right. “She was diagnosed on August 11 last year but she got sick a couple weeks before,” said Andrea, who is very exact about the dates involved. She kept a blog, teampeters.net, during her daughter’s stay in the hospital.
She started noticing Ainsley’s discomfort on July 23 when the little girl fell and began limping. For two weeks, Ainsley continued to complain about pain and sore muscles, making it hard to play with George, her younger brother. On July 30, Ainsley was taken to a doctor who expressed concern about her bruises and enlarged spleen. The next day, the doctor called the Peters to say the family could go on their already-scheduled trip, but to come back to the hospital when they return.
The Peters visited their extended family in Indianapolis from July 31 to August 6. On August 7, Ainsley developed a fever. The next day, her fever had broken but bruising had formed on her feet and hands. After a trip to the hospital, Ainsley was transported by helicopter to The Children’s Hospital at OU Medical Center in Oklahoma City. On August 11, doctors confirmed Chris and Andrea’s greatest fear – Ainsley had leukemia.
Following initial treatments, Ainsley has been in remission since September 19, but her fight is not over yet. She still receives expensive chemotherapy treatments. The outpouring of love and support from the Stillwater community helped the Peters family with their financial difficulties.
“She got sick right when school was starting,” Chris explained. “I work in the University Store at OSU, so it’s a really busy time. I missed a month of work, so my boss, Bryson Baker, and a handful of other people working in the Student Union helped quite a bit. They helped us prepare the house for Ainsley coming home and had ideas for fundraisers.”
Donations have helped the Peters pay medical bills and renovate their home to accommodate Ainsley’s needs, and organizers of the annual Bennett Jam fundraiser are hoping to help as well by making the Peters the recipients of this year’s event.
The Peters family hopes to bring Ainsley and George to the jam to enjoy the music and meet the residents in charge of the benefit concert who are excited to meet Ainsley and her family as well.
Laurel Thomason, Whitney Roten and Catherine Wilson, all freshmen, are residents at Bennett Hall and on the Bennett Jam committee. Thomason is in charge of selling advertisements and T-shirts, while Roten and Wilson are co-chairs of the sponsors and donations committee.
“Whitney and I are working on getting donations for the event and asking companies to donate gifts for the raffle,” Wilson said. “We’ve been reaching out to a lot of local Stillwater businesses to try and get as many donations for the event as we can.”
The raffle items include donated gift cards from restaurants, retail stores and the Carmike movie theater.
“We have T-shirts and tanks, which come in blue and gray,” Thomason said. “We prefer cash payments and donations since we don’t have the means to process credit cards.”
The T-shirts and tanks cost $15 each and will be sold in front of the Student Union Tuesday, April 1, through Thursday, April 3, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. The T-shirt slogan reads, “Ainsley’s the peanut butter to our jam!”
Roten hopes to draw big crowds at the benefit concert. “It’s going to be a really fun event,” Roten said. “It’s a lot about just showing up.”
Bennett Jam will take place on Bennett Hall’s front lawn on Tuesday, April 8, from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. The Jake Murphy Band and Voss will be performing the benefit concert. Bennett Hall residents are seeking additional bands and volunteers for the event. Barbecue will be catered from Bad Brad’s.
For updates on Bennett Jam, check out its Twitter at @BennettJam_2014.
For updates on Ainsley’s fight with leukemia or ways to donate, visit her Facebook page, Ainsley Jane’s Allies.