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A crew of pint-size heroes and their families took in the Big Apple Circus Sunday.
They cheered like any kid might, though some wore baseball caps to cover bald heads.
They are survivors of brain tumors who, for an afternoon, stepped away from the endless rounds of chemotherapy and doctor visits for some laughs inside the midnight-blue circus tent pitched in Lincoln Center’s Damrosch Park.
“I’ve never seen anything like it,” said Steven Arias, 12, of Elizabeth, N.J., of the girl on the flying trapeze, who hung from her ankles high above the crowd.
Steven, a seventh-grader, has been battling a brain tumor since March. His treatments have included a week of chemo each month for the past six months.
The day at the circus – Steven’s first – was a fund-raising event for the Children’s Brain Tumor Foundation, a Manhattan nonprofit whose mission is raising money for research.
“A donation does double duty. It goes to research and pays admission for a child survivor to be normal and have fun,” said Miriam Barry, a board member.
Barry’s daughter, Reina Elmaleh, learned she had a malignant brain tumor at age 12.
Today she is 32 and “living a normal life,” Barry said proudly.
The first time Shawna Gottlieb came to the foundation’s circus benefit, she was only 4. The clowns and the dark and the noise made her cry.
“I love it,” said Shawna, now 8, of Marlboro, N.J., who developed a brain tumor near her pituitary gland when she was 18 months old. She has endured more than a year of chemo and two major operations.
The third-grader is matter-of-fact about the medicines she takes daily, the visits to the eye doctor and endocrinologist, and the twice-yearly brain scans.
“We know she’s brave,” said her mother, Melissa Gottlieb. “Kids just want to be kids.”