Thomas Harrington was only 19 when he died this past May after a decade-long battle with Ewing Sarcoma. But in his final years, the Little Compton resident accomplished things many can only dream of and was a tireless advocate for those suffering from childhood illness, and their loved ones.
Now, the late teen’s girlfriend hopes his story will inspire others, and hopes to raise $50,000 to help an organization near and dear to those who loved him.
“His mentality of living every day to the fullest really inspired me,” said Kira Galka, 20, of Tiverton, who dated Harrington for the last year and a half of his life. “He didn’t let the cancer get in the way.”
Ewing Sarcoma is a rare and highly aggressive form of cancer. Following his diagnosis as a 10-year-old, Harrington faced endless rounds of chemotherapy, radiation and many major surgeries. Though he went through at least one remission, “it just kept coming back and coming back,” Galka said.
“They were running out of treatment plans; it was so sad to see such an amazing person go through that.”
Refusing to yield to the illness, Harrington was busier than many teens. The son of the late Linton Harrington and Elizabeth Allen Harrington, a counselor at the Macomber School in Westport, he took part in musical theater productions at Portsmouth High School, and was a stand-up comedy writer. He also loved music, notably percussion, and was a member of the Portsmouth High School Marching Band’s drum line. As his illness progressed, he began composing music electronically at home.
Over the last years of his life, Harrington spoke plainly about and worked to help others afflicted with childhood illness. He recited a poem about his experiences with the disease on the front steps of the State House during pediatric cancer awareness month, and after high school enrolled at Salve Regina University, where he pursued a social work major.
But the cancer returned after just one semester, forcing him to withdraw for more treatment; he later enrolled at Rhode Island College, where he took music production and art and music therapy classes with the goal of becoming a musical therapist for children.
Harrington also was a long-time camper with The Hole in the Wall gang, which serves youth with childhood illnesses, and was a member of the junior advisory board for the Izzy Foundation, a non-profit organization that provides services and support to children with cancer or any other life-altering medical conditions.
Galka hopes to raise $50,000 for the foundation and has until Sunday, Dec. 3 to do so. There will also be a fund-raising “Walk for a Cause” at Johnston Memorial Park in Johnston, from 5 to 8 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 19.
Galka chose the Izzy Foundation because it played a vital role in Harrington’s life, and hers too.
“When we were in the hospital we were able to go to the Izzy Room and escape reality from the cancer life for a little while,” she said.
Gralka, who once wanted to study psychology in college, later decided to go into nursing instead and, perhaps not surprisingly, turned her attention toward oncology and pediatric nursing.
“Once I started seeing him going through treatments and going to Hasbro with him, that made me want to go toward that,” and she is currently pursuing her degree as a junior at Rhode Island College.
“I think about him all the time,” she said.
Note: The Walk for a Cause fund-raiser will be held Sunday, Nov. 19, at the Johnston Memorial Park, 1583 Hartford Ave. in Johnston, RI. There is a suggested donation of $50 per person, and there will be drinks, live music and more. To purchase a ticket or make a donation to Galka’s fund-raiser, see the QR code adjacent to the story or click here; you can also contact her directly at email@example.com or call (757)756-3766.