Fitzpatrick welcomes Neshaminy sixth-grader as special guest for State of the Union
Sara Harvey of Lower Southampton and her family will witness history in the making Tuesday night when they watch President Joe Biden give his State of the Union speech from their seats in the gallery of the Capitol’s House of Representatives in Washington.
Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick awarded Sara the honor of being his guest at the speech to thank her for her fundraising for cancer research. The 12-year-old has raised more than $20,000 since she herself was diagnosed with retinoblastoma, an eye cancer at age 4.
A "warrior' fighting against childhood cancer
“Sara Harvey is a warrior who not only beat cancer but works tirelessly to raise money for research and treatment,” Fitzpatrick said. “This deadly disease affects thousands of American families, including my own, and we must continue to raise awareness and work toward finding a cure. I’m proud of Sara’s work to raise money for cancer research, and I’m honored to have her join me at the State of the Union address.”
Her mother said Sara’s father first noticed her left pupil had a glare to it. The couple called their daughter’s doctor when it didn’t subside. They would learn she had retinoblastoma, and had been blind in that eye since before birth.
Sara had her eye removed at Wills Eye Hospital in Philadelphia and has been cancer free for eight years. But she hasn’t forgotten that there are many other people who could benefit from cancer research. With the help of other students in the Neshaminy School District, she has raised funds through the Four Diamonds Fund to fight childhood cancers since research into childhood cancer lags behind that for adults.
Neshaminy Superintendent of Schools Rob McGee said that Sara is a very persuasive fundraiser.
“I first met Sara when, as a fifth-grader,” McGee said. “She challenged the Neshaminy School Board to recognize September as Childhood Cancer Awareness Month and told me to take her to lunch to further discuss her ideas. Well..18 months, two ‘Mini-mini-Thons,’ a theme week and thousands of dollars raised later, Sara is moving on to Washington! Go Sara!”
Sara will be accompanied by her parents, Steve and Toni Harvey, and her younger brother, Sonny. The family will stay as Fitzpatrick’s guests at a Washington hotel following the speech, and will get to tour the capital city.
Family shocked at invitation
Toni Harvey said the congressman’s office was trying to reach her last week but she didn’t take the call until she was waiting to pick up her children from after-school activities Wednesday afternoon. “They must have been calling me all day. This was a little crazy. We weren’t expecting this,” she said, when she learned they were invited.
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Sara said her mom told her about the call at dinner. “I was actually really shocked. I stood there for a moment,” she said before realizing how happy she was about the trip. “I really like all the history.”
The family will take a shopping trip this weekend to prepare, Sara said.
Sara’s teacher, Christine Richardson, said her young student takes after her mother, the Poquessing Middle School’s PTO president, in that she is “a leader" who is very strong but very kind. “Her level of empathy to others is just incredible,” her teacher said.
And Sara is very responsible. When she knew she would be missing school on Tuesday and Wednesday, she asked her teacher about home assignments before telling her about the upcoming trip.
Richardson said she cried when she heard why Sara would be absent. “It’s so wonderful when a deserving young person receives this opportunity for a once-in-a-lifetime experience," she said.
This article originally appeared on Bucks County Courier Times: Fitzpatrick asks Neshaminy cancer survivor as guest at State of Union