CHICAGO (CBS) –He's beaten back cancer five times, and he's not even 10 years old.
The warrior from Gilberts wants others to understand the pediatric cancer battle. CBS 2's Lauren Victory learned more about the little boy and the Saint Charles-based nonprofit alongside him for the fight.
As he raced around, it's obvious Michael Esquivel, 9, was full of energy.
"I like to do golf, sometimes soccer, and I just like to shoot baskets," he said.
Photos show the vibrant boy sidelined from recent hospital visits.
His mother, Kelly Esquivel, said Sept. 17 was his nine-year anniversary of finding out he had neuroblastoma as an infant.
He's almost 10 years old, and the cancer keeps coming back.
"He's had four relapses since 2018 alone," Kelly said.
Michael's been growing up with rounds and rounds of chemotherapy, lots of check-ups, and time away from his own bed.
"It's really hard to go through," he said.
That's where the Pediatric Cancer Foundation, called Cal's Angels, came in.
Co-founder Stacey Wahlberg helps rally support for kids in the thick of it and hopes others pay attention.
"When you raise more awareness, what you're actually doing is educating individuals, and when you educate them, then they're more willing to donate," Wahlberg said. "That goes right into research."
The donations go to help fund pediatric cancer clinical trials. They also help fund wishes, a trip to the amusement park for one patient, a playset for another, and a racecar.
"We always wanted to put that smile on the child's face," Wahlberg said. "Get them to forget about cancer for even just one moment."
It's not just the big presents that make the difference.
Sometimes, it's the little pick-me-ups for the whole family. One of Michael's sisters tagged along when he was recently honored at a Hampshire High School football game.
"We are the only organization out there that every program we have also includes the siblings," Wahlberg said. "They are the ones who are left behind. They're lonely. They're scared."
Kelly Esquivel added, "Sometimes we're having a really terrible week, and the doorbell rings, and there's a giant box of toys for my kids on the porch from Cal's Angels, and they light up, and it reminds you, like, you're not in it, alone."
As they say, it takes a village.
Cal's Angels want to wage WAR. That stands for wishes, awareness and research.
They're always raising money for those efforts including some big fundraisers happening over the next few weeks. For more information on how to support the cause, visit calsangels.org/ways-to-give.
One way to benefit kids like Michael is through a fundraiser happening at more than 60 Culver's locations this week. On Sept. 27, 10% of all sales will be donated to Cal's Angels. The same event last year raised more than $50,000 for the charity.
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