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Weston girl designs HomeGoods bag for cancer research and treatment

Samantha Burns, 8, has designed a shopping bag to raise money for the Jimmy Fund.

BETHANY VERSOY

Samantha Burns, 8, has designed a shopping bag to raise money for the Jimmy Fund.

IN THE BAG: HomeGoods shoppers can support the ­Dana-Farber Cancer Institute by purchasing a reusable shopping bag adorned with colorful artwork by 8-year-old Jimmy Fund Clinic patient Samantha Burns of Weston for 99 cents through next Sunday.

Samantha, who was diagnosed last August with acute lymphoblastic leukemia, drew her “signature butterfly,” which she often likes to sketch. HomeGoods will contribute 50 cents to the Jimmy Fund for each bag purchased.

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Samantha’s shopping bag is part of the 12th annual HomeGoods Helps Families Fight Cancer campaign, which supports pediatric and adult cancer care and research at Dana-Farber. HomeGoods stores nationwide are participating in the effort through which shoppers can make a $1, $5, or $10 contribution at the register with 100 percent of the proceeds benefiting Dana-Farber and the Jimmy Fund.

Catherine Burns said her daughter, already a veteran of various fund-raisers and toy and stuffed-animal drives, is excited that her efforts will help other kids fight cancer. Samantha’s first concern after coming off a ventilator last winter was distributing the toys she had already collected to other kids at Children’s Hospital Boston, she said.

“It was Dec. 21 and she was worried about getting it done before Christmas,” Burns recalled. “She’s a sweet kid, and I am very proud of her.”

Samantha, a second-grader at Woodland Elementary School in Weston, is expected to receive treatments for another year. One day, she wants to become a doctor or nurse so she can treat others.

For now, she has a simple wish for her design: “To make people happy,” Samantha said.

ANNIVERSARY WISHES: When Lisa Vasiloff of Newton cofounded Birthday Wishes with friends Carol Zwanger of Cambridge and the late Karen Yahara of Wal­tham in 2002, they never expected that their organization would celebrate its 10th anniversary.

Since its inception, according to Vasiloff, Birthday Wishes has hosted approximately 24,000 birthday parties for children living in homeless shelters. According to the National Center on Family Homelessness, one in 45 children in America experiences homelessness each year.

Last month marked a new tradition for the nonprofit: the “CakeWalk” to raise awareness and financial support for its mission.

The walk, a quarter-mile loop around Millennium Park in West Roxbury, drew 200 participants who raised more than $23,000. An a cappella group from Wellesley High School sang “Happy Birthday,” two sheet cakes were donated by Whole Foods Market in Newton, and volunteers from Pinkberry in Wellesley provided frozen yogurt.

“It was a short walk, but symbolic,” said Vasiloff, the organization’s executive director. “It was a family-centered event, with people walking with friends, kids, dogs, pushing strollers and wheelchairs. It was exactly in the spirit that we hoped it would be.”

Vasiloff said her next goal is helping children living in motels and other temporary housing situations. Volunteers host parties at shelters, but also deliver a “birthday-in-a-box” package providing party supplies and gifts when volunteers are not allowed into shelters.

“Ultimately, I hope the organization doesn’t have to exist,” she added, “but in the meantime, we want to reach as many kids as possible without losing our grass-roots philosophy.”

For more information, visit www.birthdaywishes.org.

SPECIAL EFFORT: Members of Sudbury’s Boy Scout Troop 60 recently teamed with local Special Olympians for a seven-week bowling league at the Acton Bowladrome.

The participating Scouts were Gabriel Faucher, A.J. Hubbard, Rob Wakefield, Nick Oliveira, Chris St. George, Alex DiFelice, Sam and Wyatt Owens, and Michael and Andrew LaScaleia, all of Sudbury. The Special Olympians were Hailey Sullivan of Groton, Michael Fontaine of Westford, Joey Goulet of Acton, Owen Pignone of Framingham, Jon Brew of Acton, and Matthew Frank of Concord.

Susan Oliveira, the Scouts’ community service and local events coordinator, organized the collaboration with Scoutmaster Mike Owens, the troop’s assistant scoutmaster, Dennis Faucher, and troop chairman Dan DiFelice, all of Sudbury. The Acton Bowladrome provided discounted lanes, and trophies donated by Tom O’Connor of Reading Trophy Shirt Co. were presented at a pizza party on the last night.

Oliveira said the feedback was so positive from the Scouts and Special Olympians alike that the troop is planning a similar activity next school year.

“It was very fun, very positive,” she said. “It was heartwarming to watch the kids interact and make progress.”

For information about future sessions, e-mail Oliveira at smwo89@verizon.net.

RESILIENT CHILDREN: Clinical psychologist Robert Brooks of Needham acknowledges that it is natural for parents to grieve when told their child has an autism spectrum disorder. However, he states in his new book that parents can make a powerful difference in helping their children develop social skills with long-lasting effects.

“Raising Resilient Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders,” which Brooks coauthored with neuropsychologist Sam Goldstein of Utah, provides strategies for maximizing strengths and coping with adversity. Topics include empowering children to solve problems; reinforcing their social and communication skills to enhance friendships; teaching them to learn from mistakes; fostering creativity and growth through diversity; disciplining them while instilling self-worth; and building an alliance with the school.

Brooks, who also teamed with Goldstein to write “Raising Resilient Children,” published in 2001, said the message is one of hope.

“You can’t ignore a child’s problems,” said Brooks, a faculty member of Harvard Medical School who spent the majority of his career at McLean Hospital in Belmont. “But you can learn to accept your child for who they are, celebrate what they can do, and help them cope with life’s challenges, regardless of their struggles.”

For more information, visit www.drrobertbrooks.com.

LIGHTNING STRIKES: Kinetic plasma glass artist Wayne Strattman of Boston is perhaps best known for lighting up the Borg ship in the 1996 movie “Star Trek: First Contact” and the “Star Trek” TV series with high-voltage plasma.

He is represented in nearly 1,000 museums worldwide, but will open his first solo museum show on July 15 at the Charles River Museum of Industry & Innovation at 154 Moody St. in Waltham.

“Self: Illuminated” will feature nearly 100 sculptures grouped into 10 installations, with pieces ranging from a chess board mimicking the complexity of human relationships to a forest of molecule trees.

The exhibition will be complemented by several events celebrating glass and technology-based art.

Strattman, who has been manipulating glass, gases, and electricity for more than 25 years, has taught at MIT, wrote the book “Neon Techniques,” and holds multiple lighting patents.

“I hope to show a range of sculpture I’ve created over the past several years in what I think is a fairly unique medium,” he said, “one which is comprised of not only the art of glass forming but a fairly technical side as well, utilizing electronic controls, integrated sound, and some revolutionary ways of making light.”

Strattman is working toward raising $9,000 on Kickstarter.com by next Sunday to offset the costs of producing the exhibition, which will run through Jan. 15.

For more information, visit www.strattman.com.

People items may be submitted to Cindy Cantrell at cantrell@ globe.com.
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