YOUR HOMETOWN — Brandywine: Cooking Up A Gift Of Love

Teachers, Community Rally Around Young Cancer Patient

Posted: March 27, 2013

Brandywine Elementary School teacher Erin Eye shows Kinsley Armstrong, 6, a copy of the cookbook Eye and substitute school aide April Simmons compiled and sold to help defray Kinsley’s medical expenses. The first-grader was diagnosed with cancer in 2011. The cookbook was signed by all of Kinsley’s classmates. Photo by Joan Ashley / DN-R.
BRANDYWINE, W.Va. — Like most kids her age, 6-year-old Kinsley Armstrong likes to help out in the kitchen.

“She loves sweets, so it’s often baking cake or cookies,” her mother, Bobbie, said.

Unlike most 6-year-olds, though, Kinsley has had to fight an adult-sized burden: cancer. She’s not alone, though.

When Kinsley’s Brandywine Elementary School first-grade teacher, Erin Eye, and substitute school aide April Simmons proposed putting together a community cookbook as a fundraiser for the family, Bobbie Armstrong was enthusiastic, but hesitant as to how it would be accepted.

“I was surprised and thankful that people were thinking of us. But I didn’t know how a cookbook would go. Would people buy it?” she asked herself.

They did indeed — more than 1,000 copies so far.

“Cooking for Kinsley — Recipes of Love” is now in its third printing. The book has raised thousands of dollars for the family’s medical expenses, which, needless to say, are considerable.

Armstrong is still amazed at the response.

“It went way beyond what I expected,” she said. “I was surprised at how many recipes came in — there was a great response.”

Eye credited Simmons with the cookbook idea.

“We both collect recipes and especially enjoy small-town cookbooks,” Eye said. “We thought it would be a good idea to make a special cookbook to benefit Kinsley.”

Advertising was by word-of-mouth and on Facebook, and the community responded, sending in more than 700 recipes.

“The hardest part was proofreading. I did more than 600 until April took over and finished the rest of them,” Eye said.

Everything was done online with Eye and Simmons choosing a title, cover and personal pages. The school and Kinsley’s class helped.

“Kinsley is always very sweet and, when she left [for treatment], it made all of us sad,” classmate Lily Mortimer said. “Her family needs to travel a lot. That’s why they need money. We got the cookbook and we collect money to give her parents.”

Kaylee Arbogast, a friend of Kinsley’s, says that while she may not physically be in class anymore, Kinsley is still as much a member of the class as any other student.

“We say prayers for her and love her,” Kaylee said. “She’s a special part of our classroom even if she is not here.”

Kinsley was diagnosed with neuroblastoma in September 2011. Since then, she has undergone five rounds of chemotherapy, multiple surgeries, and a stem-cell transplant when the high chemo mixture “wiped out” her own stem cells. A month ago, she started eight to 10 rounds of radiation in an autoimmune therapy program at the Children’s Hospital in Philadelphia.

“In her last ... scan, we just got the best news yet,” Eye said. “The spot on her pelvis was practically gone, and the spot near her eye was still there but better.”

After Kinsley finishes her immune therapy with one more inpatient visit followed by a six-cycle pill therapy at home, the hospital will do another scan, Eye said.

Kinsley is a very happy and strong-willed child.

“If something makes her unhappy, she has no problem telling us. That’s what keeps her going,” her mother said.

And despite her own struggles, Kinsley is always looking out for others.

“She’s used to people praying for her, so now, if she hears someone has something, even just a cold or the flu, she wants to pray for them,” Bobbie Armstrong said.

The whole community has been awesome, she added.

“I want to give a humongous thank you to our neighbors and God. He is number one,” she said. “If it had not been for our faith, there’s no way we could have come this far.”

Eye agreed.

“The family says and seems to know that God is going to take care of Kinsley,” said Eye, who has taught Kinsley in preschool, kindergarten and first grade in the classroom and at home when she was unable to attend school.

“They are a special family and Kinsley is so very special to me,” she said.

For more information about ordering a cookbook, call Eye at (304) 249-6026, or send email to erin_eye@hotmail.com.

Contact Joan Ashley at 574-6200



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