MAYPEARL — Bel Coonrod’s heart for people shows each time she flashes a smile to greet them. The six-year-old cancer survivor has also been working with her mom, Vicki, to raise funds for a new downtown park in Maypearl.
So far her efforts have raised about $3,000.
Bel was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma last summer. She went through chemotherapy and is now cancer-free. However, for the past several months, doctors have been treating her for a rapid growth of B cells, which help protect the body against germs by creating antibodies. Those cells have the possibility to turn into cancer.
According to the American Cancer Society, NHL is a type of cancer that begins in the body’s lymphatic system, attacking white blood cells and the immune system.
The idea for the park came about after Bel was nominated for the Make-A-Wish program.
“The two things that she wanted the most was one wanting to go to Disney World. The other thing that she wanted was some sort of a park or a recreation center for all of the kids that live in Maypearl,” said Joy Landry, Bel’s grandmother. “Well, the Make-A-Wish people said they could not do that because it was too much liability to it. They didn’t want to supply the upkeep for it or the personnel to make it run. They told us that it was beyond their scope.”
Landry added that a family in town, the Wilemons, had donated a two-acre tract of land across from city hall on East Second Street to the city to be used for a park.
Vicki stated that her daughter told her about the idea of the park on a trip to the gym.
“One thing that we talked about is she wanted somewhere kids could go and have fun and do stuff,” Vicki explained. “She suggested a lemonade stand to raise funds, but she is on social isolation where she can’t be in big crowds of people. So we talked about one way to help raise money is t-shirt sales or doing something online.”
The t-shirts feature the state of Texas with a heart that reads “Home is where the heart is” on the front and on the back it says, “people are raising kindness, Maypearl, Texas.”
A new design of the shirt will be launched in October and will be in Maypearl spirit colors — red, black, and white. The heart on the shirt will have “Maypearl” printed inside it.
Bel said that the city needs a park for “kids and parents” and to serve as a “gathering place for the community.”
One community group, the Friends of Maypearl, has partnered with Bel to make the park a reality. Through fundraisers, donations and a contribution from the city, over $83,000 has already been raised. The group is currently applying for a grant through Texas Parks and Wildlife and continuing other fundraising efforts.
"I told each of the members of the council that I am so grateful for each of you guys doing this," Landry said. "The Friends of Maypearl have just been so wonderful in helping to make this something that was possible for everybody."
Vicki explained that Bel is a giving person who wants people to feel welcomed and included in everything.
“As parents, we try to instill that in her to make sure that she is caring and a humanitarian. I think that part of it comes from the long hospital stays, Vicki noted. "Just watching her in the playroom if there is a little kid that does not want to play there and is kind of acting lonely she would go and talk to them."
Landry shared Vicki’s thoughts that Bel is a very caring and generous person who can accomplish anything that she sets out to do.
The new T-shirts will be sold online for $25 each at www.booster.com. On the website search Maypearl park shirt. People who want more information about the Friends of Maypearl’s efforts go its website at www.friendsofmaypearl.com.