A Hilton Head Island couple whose 10-year-old son is battling leukemia got to make their pitch Friday for more federal funding for childhood cancer to Chelsea Clinton.
Clinton, while campaigning for her mother, Hillary Clinton, ahead of Saturday’s S.C. Democratic primary, stopped by Alex Arrieta’s room at the Medical University of South Carolina during a tour of the Charleston hospital. The fifth-grader at Hilton Head Island School for the Creative Arts has been in the MUSC Children’s Hospital since Jan. 18 after he suffered a relapse of acute myeloid leukemia.
Clinton spoke briefly with Alex’s father, Brandon Arrieta, who has been lobbying presidential contenders and other political leaders about the need for more research funding. Only 4 percent of National Cancer Institute money for research goes toward children, Arrieta said.
He also spoke of Alex’s project to collect stuffed toy lambs for other children who are fighting cancer. The more than 1,400 lambs that Alex’s Lambs for Life project — at lambsforlife.org — has collected will be delivered to hospitals in South Carolina and Georgia within the next week, Arrieta said. He added that Alex also wants to provide pillow cases for the lambs to go in, as hospital pillow cases are uncomfortable. Alex has kept with him a toy lamb he calls Lamby he received at birth as a comforter throughout his cancer treatments, which began last February when he was first diagnosed with the disease.
Clinton told Brandon Arrieta she would relay his concerns to her mother and also said she would have her mother photographed with a poster of the Lambs for Life logo, as have Republican presidential candidates Marco Rubio and John Kasich.
Chelsea Clinton then visited briefly with Brandon Arrieta, Alex and mom Caroline Arrieta in Alex’s room. Media were not allowed in the room, other than a hospital photographer. And Clinton did not take questions immediately before or after the brief visit with the Arrietas.
Brandon Arrieta later learned that Bill and Hillary Clinton wanted to meet with him Friday night; however, due to Alex’s condition, he had to decline. He plans, though, to try to meet with Hillary Clinton Saturday night at her primary party to discuss research funding.
Chelsea Clinton posted on Twitter a statement and photograph of herself with the Lambs for Life sign soon after her hospital visit:
“Only 4% of federal NCI funding is dedicated to childhood cancer research,” she tweeted. “We need to fix that & give kids a shot at the future they deserve.”