Sometimes, as they say, the greatest gifts come in the smallest packages. That is certainly true in the case of Ireland and Maren McGuire, who have given deeply of themselves in an effort to combat the disease that recently claimed the life of their beloved grandmother.
Ireland, 9, and Maren, 6, are on a quest to raise money for melanoma research and to heighten awareness of the deadly form of skin cancer.
The girls' grandmother, 64-year-old Donna Burke of Dixon, died from her disease on Sept. 20, two years after her diagnosis. She received treatment at UC Davis Cancer Center, where the girls' mother also works in the Health Sciences Advancement department.
The girls, who live in Dixon, have been creating and marketing their own beaded jewelry and other small treasures, with the help and guidance of their extended family. Every penny of their profits will go to doctors at UC Davis for melanoma research.
"Ireland is the one who came up with the idea," said their mother, Christine McGuire. "She wanted to do something that she thought would help my mom. My husband, Chris, and I thought it would be a good way to help the girls cope with their grandmother's illness and be a part of the fight against this horrible disease."
The pair's first coup was a sale they called "Two Irish Girls Jewelry Event" that featured some 300 pieces – necklaces, earrings and bracelets – which netted more than $2,000 for UC Davis oncologists Steve Martinez and Scott Christensen.
The young fund-raisers also developed a Web page dedicated to teach young people about the importance of skin cancer and melanoma prevention. The pair also intends to continue selling their creations.
"Prevention is really the key, and the tie-in for what these wonderful little girls are doing to raise awareness of the disease," says Christensen, one of Donna Burke's doctors. "We still continue to look for new options for melanoma [treatment]. That is why their efforts are so greatly appreciated. What we have, while useful, is not as good as we would like it to be."
Christine McGuire said she is proud of her girls for showing such initiative during a very challenging time for everyone.
In the weeks following her mother's death, Christine McGuire admits that motivation for the jewelry-making waned, so she asked the girls to gear up for the UC Davis Health System holiday bazaar.
"It gave us something to look forward to, and my dad has asked that we please continue our efforts as a legacy to my mom, who would be so proud."