When 8-year-old Sam Crumley learned his two best friends had lost their mother to breast cancer, he said, “It didn’t sound that good.”
So the third grader from St. Christopher's By The Sea Montessori School on Key Biscayne went to work this month – Breast Cancer Awareness Month – asking family, friends, and people at church and school to donate money to the Pink Key Society, created in memory of Sarah Mendoza – the mother of his two school friends.
He joined the Pink Key Society team to raise money as part of Miami’s Susan G. Komen “More Than Pink Walk” in Miami on October 16.
The Pink Key Society was started by the children’s father, Sergio Mendoza – who is currently the top fundraiser in the Miami/Fort Lauderdale area with over $21,000 raised.
The team remains one of the top fundraisers year after year.
Sam has raised over $2,200, and at one point was ranked seventh highest donor in south Florida. He is currently in 11th place, with a goal of raising $5,000.
Sam’s best friends are Sergio and Anais. They lost their mother in 2017.
“It kind of started as Sergio wanting to get everyone on his team,” said Sam’s mom, Ari. “He put a challenge to Sam to raise more money than him. Even though he had known Sergio’s children … he didn’t truly understand what (cancer) was. We never had that conversation in our house because” their family had never had someone diagnosed.
“He thought, ‘If I do this, then other people won’t die?’”
Anytime Sam asked for donations, people said yes – by the hundreds of dollars.
“I lost my wife Sarah to metastatic breast cancer in 2017 and I have a daughter who is now 6 years old,” Sergio Mendoza said. “I walk with my children, my mother and father, and I walk with our team, who are also aligned in this fight against breast cancer.
“It’s important not to look at breast cancer as something that is unsurmountable or that will always defeat us. My wife was defeated by breast cancer but that’s not the future. And it is really important for us to come together for the women that are alive, for the future women, like my daughter, to really understand that we are not going to be defeated. We are going to win.”
Sam said he doesn’t want this happening to other children.
“I wanted to cure breast cancer for people,” he said. “I would say the way to donate money is to ask friends and family to donate. And when they do … that’s how they raise money.”
Ari is sure Sam will want to raise money again next year.
“Every morning, I would wake up and tell him, ‘Guess what? When you were sleeping, someone donated this much,” she said. “And he said, ‘I’ve been saving my whole life and have saved $1,000. And I’ve only (fundraised) for a few days and have already raised this much.’”
Ari doesn’t believe her son can truly understand what it means to not have a mother. She said when he met the Mendoza children, “they had just lost her the year before. He just knows they don’t have a mom.”
Asked whether volunteerism is a common practice in their family, Ari said they volunteer throughout the year for different things, whether it’s for school or her husband’s job.
“We just want to make sure he’s aware that other foundations and people need help and we have to help them somehow,” she said. “Even if it's to raise money to help. He now knows it makes him feel good … (that it) feels better giving than receiving. I want him to understand what that feels like.”