Portsmouth student’s fund-raiser commemorates late brother

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PORTSMOUTH — His older brother George died from cancer nearly 13 years ago, but David Wordell hasn’t forgotten him nor the folks who supported his family throughout the terrible ordeal.

As his senior project, the Portsmouth High School student hosted an ultimate frisbee tournament Sunday at the school to raise money for The Tomorrow Fund, a nonprofit that provides financial and emotional support to children with cancer and their families.

“My brother, in 2001, died from neuroblastoma. He was 8. I wanted to do something that the kids would be interested in and still donate to the Tomorrow Fund,” said David, adding that ultimate frisbee — frisbee football, essentially — is his favorite sport. Players were charged $5 each to participate.

Neuroblastoma is a form of childhood cancer that attacks the sympathetic nervous system, which carries messages to the brain.

When he was 4, George complained of stomach pains to his parents, Dana and Christina Wordell. After a series of tests he was diagnosed in December 1997 and George had surgery and stem-call operations.

(George was born with a bilateral cleft lip and palate, a congenital deformity caused by abnormal facial development during gestation. His mother said it’s possible the two diseases were related.)

George’s cancer and cancer went into remission, but 19 months later it returned with a vengeance. He underwent intense chemotherapy treatment at Hasbro Children’s Hospital.

Meanwhile, the family received support from The Tomorrow Fund, including the organization’s Camp Dotty. Founded in 1996, the camp entertains cancer patients ages 4 to 7 and their siblings through its annual summer program held on the grounds of Hasbro Children's Hospital.

Activities include gymnastics, meeting exotic animals, creating arts and crafts, and dancing to live music. One year members of the Pawtucket Red Sox came out to greet the campers, said Ms. Wordell.

“Georgie went once and David went twice — the year Georgie was in remission and then the year after. Georgie relapsed for only nine months, and then he passed,” she said.

George died on July 13, 2001. Sunday, however, was devoted to honoring his memory through a good cause

Inside the high school’s gym — the event was moved indoors due to strong winds — friends and family members leafed through photo albums showing George in the hospital or goofing around with David, while students tossed around frisbees nearby.

For more information about The Tomorrow Fund, click here.

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A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.