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BOY'S CLOSE CALL WITH CANCER SPURS 'DAY OF GIVING'

September 06, 2012

From The Orange County Register

Published: September 5, 2012

Hales family of San Clemente, which nearly lost their youngest child, Chase, to a brain tumor in 2006, is promoting Sept. 15 as a day for people to count their blessings and do good. The Hales have been doing their part by restoring a map at Chase’s school, and they’re planning a beach cleanup for the Chase Hales Family Day of Giving.

By FRED SWEGLES / THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER

Stephanie Hales hopes you will go out and do something nice for others Sept. 15.

Just pick something, big or small.

She plans to pick up litter on the beach in San Clemente, part of California's annual Coastal Cleanup Day.

Only she isn't calling it Coastal Cleanup Day. She's calling it the Chase Hales Family Day of Giving.

The Hales family – Stephanie, her husband, Sloan, and their children, Chantal, 17, Jocelyn, 14, and Chase, 10 – have set up a Facebook page titled "The Chase Hales Family Day of Giving" in hopes that it will become an annual occurrence, a day for people to count their blessings and give back.

The Hales' blessing is that Chase is alive. One night in 2006, the family came so close to losing the then-5-year-old to a lemon-size, undiagnosed brain tumor that doctors said he could have stopped breathing in his sleep that night and the Hales never would have known what hit them.

Instead, doctors at Children's Hospital of Orange County did emergency surgery to relieve pressure on Chase's spinal cord, then surgery to remove the cancerous tumor. Chase underwent chemotherapy, has been in remission since 2008 and is a lively, healthy kid, apart from needing growth hormone, the family says.

"We are so lucky to have him," said his sister Chantal.

"I feel like we dodged a bullet," said their mother, Stephanie.

As a prelude to Sept. 15, the Hales family put together a gift for Chase's school, Marblehead Elementary in San Clemente. In recent days, Chantal Hales has led a family project to restore a map of the United States on the school's blacktop.

Jeremy Fleischman painted the map in 2004 as his Eagle Scout project for Troop 737. It had since become seriously weathered. Fleishman went on to graduate from San Clemente High School and UC Berkeley. His mother, Mary, teaches at Marblehead Elementary and was Chase's kindergarten teacher the year he got sick.

Students arriving for classes Wednesday on the first day of the new school year were greeted with a multicolored map that looks like new.

"I went to this school and I think it's a cool idea to leave this map behind," Chantal Hales said.

The restored map features states big enough for kids to hopscotch from one to the next. Stephanie Hales said she hopes teachers at Marblehead will use it for the States Race, in which classrooms compete to see who can place the correct names on the states the quickest.

"Kinda cool," said Chase, who doesn't remember his dark days in 2006.

The Day of Giving Facebook page contains links to nonprofits such as Family Assistance Ministries, the Joyful Foundation and the Orange County Foundation for Oncology, Children and Families. The latter stepped up and provided moral support from the family's first tense moments at CHOC Children's and St. Joseph Hospital, Stephanie Hales said. The organization continues to host Chase and his siblings yearly at three-day campouts at Camp Oaks, near Big Bear Lake.

Stephanie Hales said the Facebook page could be a legacy for Chase, nudging others to appreciate what they have and to help others, sort of like Chase did by painting state boundaries on the blacktop map at Marblehead Elementary.

"I don't think he realizes how big a deal this is right now," Chantal Hales said after a work session on the map. "But I think definitely down the road, he's going to maybe bring his friends here one day and be like, 'Hey, look! I did this with my family!' It's cool."

Contact the writer: fswegles@ocregister.com or 949-492-5127

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