The Mercer Island community is supporting the family of Ewan Lill, who died after a battle with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia on May 7, as they continue to raise money and support new immunotherapy treatments for childhood cancer. Photo courtesy of Jenny Harrington

The Mercer Island community is supporting the family of Ewan Lill, who died after a battle with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia on May 7, as they continue to raise money and support new immunotherapy treatments for childhood cancer. Photo courtesy of Jenny Harrington

Mercer Island third grader dies from leukemia

Ewan Lill’s family is raising money for a promising immunotherapy treatment.

The Mercer Island community has rallied around the Harrington-Lill family, who lost their 8-year-old son, Ewan Lill, to acute lymphoblastic leukemia on May 7.

A remembrance service and celebration of life were held on May 20 at the Mercer Island Presbyterian Church. The family invited guests to wear “Team Ewan” shirts; Harry Potter, superhero, or Star Wars costumes; Mercer Island sports team shirts; or anything else that reminds them of Ewan, according to the local My Mercer Island blog.

Ewan was a third grader at Lakeridge Elementary, and a member of the school’s K-Kids Club. Last year, the club raised $5,000 for leukemia research by selling bright orange bracelets, printed with “K-Kids Cure Cancer.” Their efforts were documented in the Mercer Island Reporter and My Mercer Island.

Islanders also learned of Ewan’s battle with cancer at the Mercer Island Youth and Family Services (MIYFS) Foundation Annual Breakfast a few months ago. A video shown at the event featured Ewan’s mother, Jenny, who shared stories about the support and services her family received from MIYFS.

Ewan inspired his classmates and community. Donations to the Team Ewan Seattle Children’s Hospital Guild, which raises money to improve cellular immunotherapy, or CAR T treatment of leukemia, are pouring in. According to the team’s Strong Against Cancer webpage, their goal is to raise $50,000.

One notable donation came from a third grade Brownie troop in Mercer Island, Troop 40214, which is pledging this year’s cookie sale profits to Team Ewan. Many donors remember Ewan as a “fighter” and “true superhero.”

Donations will be credited toward the Team Ewan guild that is being set up at Seattle Children’s for more long-term fundraising efforts. See give.strongagainstcancer.org/teamewan for more.

“New immunotherapy treatments for childhood cancer are providing hope where there was none and producing promising results, up to 91 percent remission rates in some pediatric relapsed all studies. We have the beginnings of the science, but this is not enough. Ewan received the best treatment available at a world-class institution, yet he died 18 days after receiving CAR Ts,” Ewan’s family wrote. “Our goal is to help push the immunotherapy science forward so it will deliver on that promise of hope for every child who needs it.”

In this type of treatment, blood is withdrawn from a patient. In a specially developed manufacturing lab, technicians re-program the blood’s T cells. These cells are trained to attack enemy cancer cells. When re-introduced into the patient’s body, the T cells multiply rapidly, seeking out and destroying cancer cells — without harming normal, healthy cells, and without the negative effects of radiation and chemotherapy.

“This therapy is a successful last line of defense for many, but does not work for everyone. And even ‘remission’ does not mean ‘cured’,” Jenny said.

The family wrote that Team Ewan’s guild goal is to bring better immunotherapies to kids, like Ewan, faster.

“We need to fund this treatment and to bring it to more young patients,” they wrote. “Every donation makes a difference.”

“Ewan should not have lost this battle. He followed the rules and did everything right. It is now on us to make changes and improvements to be sure this outcome never happens to another child. Ewan would want us to continue fighting and to make the world a better place,” she wrote in an email to the Reporter.

My Mercer Island shared a list of ways the community can help the family, including donating:

Lotsahelpinghands “Team Ewan” – there are many volunteer opportunities through this online caring community

– Donate to the Team Ewan Seattle Children’s Hospital Guild, which raises money to improve CAR T therapy treatment of leukemia

– Purchase a Team Ewan T-Shirt – all proceeds donated to the Team Ewan Seattle Children’s Hospital Guild (adult sizes / kid sizes)

– Participate and/or donate to Team Ewan / Fred Hutch Obliteride

– Participate and/or donate to Team Ewan / Swim Across America

– Pave the way forward for the schools Ewan loved. Purchase an Islander Middle School Legacy Brick in Ewan’s name.

– Help others who may be battling leukemia – sign up to be a marrow donor www.bethematch.org and give blood often www.bloodworksnw.org

– Friends of Ewan are invited to share memories (photos and video), notes of love, and continued to support to Ewan’s brothers and sister. More details on Team Ewan on Facebook.

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