Fourth-grader shares her gift with cancer patients

by Erin Odem

Nine-year-old Ciera Gillespie gives her grandfather, Don Stout, a kiss on the cheek. Stout’s battle with colon cancer inspired Ciera to write a book about remaining hopeful while dealing with the disease.

CORNELIUS – Even before she started school, 9-year-old Ciera Gillespie created her own books. She’s always been able to express herself with pen and paper, her mother, Tara Stout, said.
“It was not something taught to her,” Stout said. “It is her way of dealing with things.”
And the fourth grader has had a lot to process in the past few months. Through the Cornelius public library, she recently wrote and published a short, five-page book about how cancer patients can maintain hope when their disease seems so hopeless.
She titled the book, “My Bonanza Man Has Cancer,” in honor of her grandfather, Don Stout, with whom she used to watch the television show “Bonanza.” He was diagnosed with colon cancer the year before Ciera was born. He has been many through ups and downs with the disease over the past 10 years, but two weeks ago doctors told him the cancer had spread throughout his body and was into his lymph nodes, Stout said. He may only have months left to live.
“He is a fighter,” she said. “He should be using a walker, but he feels if he does that he’s given up.”
Stout, a single mother, said her children call her father ‘grand father’ because “he is the greatest father.”
Ciera and her grandfather, who will turn 65 on Saturday, New Year’s Day, have always had a special relationship, she said.
“I am very, very close to him because I have not had a father figure in my life, and he has been my father figure,” Ciera said. “I used to go to his house every Thursday and watch the ‘Bonanza’ show with him.”
Ciera first wrote a poem about her grandfather called “My Bonanza Man.” Her mother found the poem in Ciera’s room one morning, but she was unaware that her daughter was also writing a book to encourage other cancer patients.
“Ciera is probably one of the best writers I’ve ever seen in fourth grade,” said Pat Amato, Ciera’s teacher at Cornelius Elementary School. “Her vocabulary is amazing, and when she writes you want to listen to hear how the words flow together.”
Amato recently encouraged Ciera to enter her book, “My Bonanza Man Has Cancer,” in the school district’s Do The Right Thing contest, which awards children from the Charlotte-Mecklenburg area for making right choices to impact their communities.
In October, Ciera was named as one of 12 recipients of the Do The Right Thing awards. She received a prize bag, and a plaque and, one of her favorite parts was visiting the Bank of America Stadium and meeting two Panthers football players, she said.
She donated the original copy of her book to the Batte Cancer Center at Carolinas Medical Center-NorthEast in Concord.
Ciera feels she has learned a lot from her grandfather’s battle with cancer, and hopes other people will learn from My Bonanza Man Has Cancer and that it will encourage many cancers patients for years to come.
“People need to know that they need to live every day like it is their last,” she said.
For more information on the Do The Right Thing Contest, visit http://do

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