citizen of the month - july  2016 - determination

darian dawson

Leukemia survivor's determination earns her Community of Character honor

July 25, 2016 Times and Democrat  article (reprinted with permission)

Article by DIONNE GLEATON T&D Staff Writer

Darian Dawson doesn’t give up easily. In fact, she doesn’t give up at all -- even amid health challenges that she has already overcome in her young life.

The 10-year-old is a leukemia survivor who continued to pursue academic excellence and participation in extracurricular activities, all while keeping a positive attitude about life.

Darian endured her treatments for the cancer, which prevents the normal manufacture of red and white blood cells and platelets, with graceful strength and was able to go back to school at the start of her third-grade year.

Her resolve to remain upbeat and to focus on her responsibilities at home, school and throughout her community earned Darian designation as the exemplification of determination for the month of July as part of the Orangeburg County Community of Character initiative.

Darian, now a rising fifth-grader at Felton Laboratory School in Orangeburg, was excited about the honor from the OCCOC.

“I was excited because I don’t get nominated a lot. It was great for them to nominate me for determination. It’s a good program because it helps people get ready for their life,” she said.

Darian was first diagnosed with leukemia at the beginning of second grade. She had to be home-schooled for most of that year.

After she was able to return to school at the start of third grade, she tied with another student for the highest average. She went on to earn all A's during her fourth-grade year.  

While Darian admits it was “a little bit scary” when she was first diagnosed, she was determined to not give up and to fulfill her obligations in and outside of school.

“I didn’t want to give up. I wanted to continue getting better and getting all my treatments to make me feel better, and get away from leukemia,” said Darian, whose favorite subjects are reading and English/language arts.

She raised $3,500 for Relay for Life, the American Cancer Society’s signature fundraiser, this spring. She has also earned her green belt in karate and has been involved as a cheerleader and volleyball player. 

Darian loves to dance, shop -- and, yes, cook. Her culinary talents inspired her start her own business called “Tweet’s Treats.”

The daughter of Dyrek and Pamela Dawson of Orangeburg, Tweet is the nickname her father gave her.

“I just created some different recipes,” said Darian, who bakes brownies, cookies, cupcakes and cakes that are sold at her aunt’s bed-and-breakfast and her father’s barbershop on the first Friday of every month.

What does determination mean to her?

“What comes to my mind is that you’re determined to do something, determined that you’ll go through something,” said Darian, who received her treatments at Palmetto Health Children’s Hospital in Columbia.

Her maternal grandmother, Brenda Jamerson, said Darian is now cancer free and “rang the bell saying that her treatments were over on Oct. 12, 2015.”

“I’m so proud of Darian,” said Jamerson, noting that a high temperature and aching joints were among the initial signs that her granddaughter was sick. She said she was pleased with the care Darian received at Palmetto Health Children’s Hospital.

“I had never experienced going to a children’s clinic primarily for blood disorders. That was my first experience there, and to see so many brave young children there that come in for treatments and just seem to tolerate it -- all of them are so courageous,” Jamerson said.

She said the Beta Club at Felton Laboratory School collected toys, books and money and donated them to Palmetto Health Children’s Hospital in Darian’s honor.

Darian made friends with other children at the Columbia hospital and has served as a source of inspiration for their families, she said.

“This situation with Darian has really brought our family closer together. She has been such a trooper. She has undergone all of her treatments with such strength until it gave us strength," Jamerson said.

“It’s just a delight to see her and how she carries on. Darian was determined to get her work when she was home-schooled and when she went back to school. She’s been the catalyst that’s just pulled us all together, and our community."

Jamerson said the support from the community, including their church family, has been significant, with many of Darian’s supporters still wearing wristbands with the words “Faith, Hope and Love” written on them.

The Make a Wish Foundation has granted Darian's wish to travel to Atlantis Paradise Island, a resort in the Bahamas. The family will leave on Monday.

Darian’s mother, Pamela, said she was overwhelmed and excited about Community of Character honoring her daughter for displaying determination. She said she marveled at her daughter’s attitude throughout her illness.

“She was never down or depressed. She seemed to never let it get her down,” Pamela said.

Darian is looking forward to beginning a new school as a fifth grader.

She said, “I want to get all A’s in fifth grade and do my best ... put my mind to it and do my work very good."