CI Heroes: "I Hate Cancer Club"

Published 08/25 2014 10:53PM

Updated 09/09 2014 04:15PM

PEKIN - Hate is a strong word.  
One central Illinois family dislikes the word so much… it's banned from their home.
But there is one exception.
AJ Salmon is like a lot of teenagers.
Hockey and homework are part of his daily routine.
He's like a lot of teenagers, except, he's not.
“I really just tell them, St. Jude is a place where kids who are really sick go, and they get special help and treatment they need. And they need our help to raise money so they can buy medicines, and pay the doctors to help these kids,” Salmon explains.
AJ is the president of the "I Hate Cancer Club."
The only way to get in…is to really, really, hate cancer.
How he came up with the name, though, is a bit ironic.
“We’re not allowed to say the word hate in my house. It's such a strong word. It means to despise something with such a passion that you wish it didn't exist. And so, you know, I’ll ask the kids, do you really hate math? They all say yea. Well, you need math. If it didn't exist, you wouldn't be able to count, wouldn't be able to do a lot of stuff. So, you need math. Do you really hate it? And, I use broccoli, you need vegetables. But, cancer, nothing good comes from cancer. I really wish it didn't exist.”
Nothing good may come from cancer, but something positive certainly has.
AI's club has turned hundreds of central Illinois kids into activists.
Together, they've raised more than $30,000 thousand dollars for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital.
To help kids, some he knows personally, fighting cancer.
“It kind of proves that you don't have to be an adult to contribute to society,” explains Salmon.
AJ spends October through February speaking to area schools.
His audience may be young, but they know exactly what they're doing.
“I like to use the snow as an example. Because, one little snowflake, they could think, I’m just a little snowflake, I'm going to probably sit on the ground and melt. But when it works with all its friends, and hundreds and hundreds get together, that's a pretty sweet snowball. And thousands and thousands of snowflakes, when they get together, you can go sledding. And millions and millions and millions, it's a snow day.  That kind of explains it to them and they really get it,” Salmon explains of his tactics to reach his target audience, adding, “You know, kids are smart.”
AJ’s passion for St. Jude started seven years ago, with $74 he had saved up for a Nintendo Wii. His dedication just may carry him through the rest of his life. He’s already thinking of becoming a doctor at St. Jude. 
AJ is getting ready to ramp up his campaign for this year.
The theme: “Choose Happy".

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