"Celling out for a Cause" - teenagers giving up their cell phones to help out 12 year old Ian Cadden who was recently diagnosed with leukemia...
A teenager’s best friend? Their cellphone. Teens sleep with it, eat with it, peck at it nonstop, texting so fast their thumbs blur. Faced with a choice between their cellphone or, say, their car, a prom date, their right arm, we all know what the average teen would choose. It would be Farewell to Right Arms, gimme my iPhone, my Galaxy, my Android.
That’s why what’s happening in Billerica is nothing short of miraculous. Some 40 teenagers so far — and the number could reach hundreds — have agreed to go cellphone-free, get this, for an entire month, starting April 17.
They could have gone the usual route — done a road race or a street hockey tournament (the idea began with the school hockey players). Instead they opted to make the ultimate sacrifice to raise money for Ian Cadden, a 12-year-old Billerica peewee hockey player diagnosed with leukemia last year. Ian has already spent 22 days in the Children’s Hospital ICU and faces weekly chemotherapy from now until May 2015.
“We call it ‘Celling Out for a Cause,’ ” said Glenn Corbett, the grown-up who came up with the idea.
For these Billerica teens, the ultimate sacrifice will mean time-traveling to 1992 and learning to use the landline in their parents’ home. It will mean looking for pay phones (are there any left?) when they need a ride home. And it’ll mean, as Nick Covino, 16, told me yesterday, “learning to speak to each other in person.”
Oh my God!
It won’t be easy, Nick admits, especially for a young man who texts “probably upwards of 200 times a day.”
“I’ll have to use the phone in the house,” Nick said.
Which means his parents will know who he is talking to? “Yeah,” he said, with an air of resignation.
Nick, who plays left wing, says he’s experienced life without a cellphone before. He got into hot water with his parents for an infraction we will not detail here. What did he miss most? “Not knowing anyone’s phone number,” he said. “They were all programmed into my phone.”
But for Ian, Nick added, “I can live without it.”
“It’s a sacrifice,” said Carissa Gordon, 15, who will have to go to Billerica High’s office to call her parents when she stays late after school.
“I really want to do this for Ian,” added Carissa, a goalie on the hockey team. “I think it would mean a lot to him.
“I know a lot of people who are just so hooked on their phones, they’ve said no (to giving them up for Ian). They use different apps constantly and are just on their phone all day long. I think it’s just better to have the communicating skills without cellphones.”
Corbett says the teens are asking for a paltry $1 per day donation for each of the 30 days they leave their phones at the town police station. “I think Billerica, actually the whole country, needs to hear about Ian and something awesome that the Billerica Memorial High kids are doing,” Corbett said.
Ian’s father, Bill Cadden, was certainly moved.
“It’s just amazing. Ian was ecstatic,” Cadden said at TD Garden, where he took Ian to watch UMass Lowell play Notre Dame in the Hockey East tournament.
“It’s been a tough year for Ian,” who’s lost family and friends to cancer and his grandmother just days ago, Cadden said.
“He knows,” Ian’s dad said, “how precious life is.”