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Eight-year-old Tara Lynn Sankner of Fairfax was diagnosed in February with astrocytoma, after almost a year of wait-and-see while doctors monitored the tiny spots on her brain. Within weeks of starting chemotherapy treatments in mid-March, she lost her hair — a common but often distressing side effect of the potent drugs used to control cancer.

Isabella Garcia, also 8, is Tara’s friend. The two met while playing for the same Fairfax Police Youth Club soccer team and Chantilly Youth Association softball team. They remain friends, even while attending different schools. Isabella is a second-grader at Waples Mill Elementary in Oakton, and Tara, a second-grader at Lees Corner Elementary.

“What can I do to help her?” Isabella asked when she found out about Tara’s brain cancer, said her mother, Amelia Garcia. Isabella thought long and hard about what she might do to help Tara’s family, and to let Tara know her friend was there for her. Troubled by Tara’s hair loss, Isabella had an idea. She called Cameron Hooks.

Cameron is Isabella’s stepbrother, a student at Colin Powell Elementary in Centreville. He, too, is 8 and a friend of Tara’s.

“Cameron, let’s raise money for Tara by shaving our heads!” Isabella said. He agreed.

The two set a goal of $3,000 “because 3 is our lucky number,” Isabella said. With help from the community, Isabella and Cameron hope to meet their goal by July 1. When they hit that $3,000 mark, they’ll shave their heads.

“It’s amazing that these kids want to do this for Tara,” said Tammy Sankner, Tara’s mother. The money will be used to help with expenses while Tammy and her husband, Craig Sankner, take time off work “to take care of Tara and her needs.”

Amelia Garcia asked Isabella if she was sure she wanted to shave off her long brown hair. “Mom, it’s just hair,” her daughter said. “And Tara will feel so much better when she knows that there are more kids around her with no hair.”

Donations can be made by visiting or For more about Tara, visit

Former Mason prof wins short story award

Richard Bausch, who graduated from George Mason University and taught English and creative writing there, has won the prestigious $30,000 Rea Award for the Short Story.

Founded in 1986 by Michael Rea, a passionate reader and collector of short stories, the award is given annually to a writer whose work has made a “significant contribution to the discipline of the short story form.”

This year’s jurors, Stuart Dybek and Richard Ford, called Bausch “a shining light in the small group of great American short story writers.” Ann Beattie, Lorrie Moore, Grace Paley, James Salter and Tobias Wolff are previous award winners.

Bausch is the author of eight collections of stories, including “Something is Out There,” “The Norton Anthology of Short Fiction,” “The Stories of Richard Bausch,” “Someone to Watch Over Me: Stories,” “Selected Stories of Richard Bausch,” “The Fireman’s Wife, and Other Stories” and “Spirits, and Other Stories.”

He also has written 11 novels. “The Last Good Time” was made into a feature-length motion picture released in April 1995. “Peace,” published in 2008, was awarded the 2010 Dayton International Literary Peace Prize.

Bausch has won two National Magazine Awards, a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Lila-Wallace Reader’s Digest Fund Writer’s Award, the Award of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and The 2004 PEN/Malamud Award for Excellence in the Short Story. He is with The Writing Program at Chapman University in Orange, Calif.

Centreville, Oakton writers lauded

The Manassas Campus of Northern Virginia Community College recently honored the winners of the 24th Annual Writing Contest with a ceremony featuring Laura Scott, poet and author of “Death Wishing.”

In the short fiction category, first place went to Gabrielle McCormack of Centreville for “Show Me Your Smile Please,” and Morgan Skaggs of Oakton took second place for “Sang Noir.”

English instructor Lorraine Goldberg introduced the winners and presented them with certificates and cash prizes. First-place winners received $75, and the second-place winner received $50. Scott read from her book and encouraged the audience to “never pass up an opportunity to show off” because you never know where it might lead.

McLean to help residents age in place

The McLean Senior Source opens its door May 21, aiming to connect older county residents and adults with disabilities to existing faith-based and nonprofit resources and services.

Housed in the McLean Community Center at 1234 Ingleside Ave. and staffed by trained volunteers from McLean, the Senior Source will support area residents who wish to “stay in place, stay informed, stay connected.” Community engagement, daily living solutions, education on aging, entertainment and recreation, healthy living, housing options, social connections and transportation are some of the topics that will be addressed.

The Senior Source is open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m Tuesdays to Thursdays. For more, call 703-300-1751 or email Betty Yurkewitch at

Fairfax foster parent honored

The Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments is honoring the 2013 Foster Parents of the Year this month for their commitment to their foster sons and daughters. Amy Zydel is the Fairfax County Foster Parent of the Year.

The Fairfax resident is being honored for her commitment to supporting birth families of children who are placed in her home. She recently opened her home to a premature infant with special needs related to her early birth.

Zydel kept the birth parents informed of all the child’s medical appointments, documenting progress with photographs. Her efforts helped the biological parents develop and maintain loving bonds with their child.

Scholarship opportunities

The Fairfax County Council of PTAs is accepting applications for two student scholarships.

The Catherine A. Belter Memorial Scholarship will go to one graduating Fairfax County high school student planning to enter the field of education or other child-related field. For this inaugural year, the scholarship amount will be $1,000. Email Patricia Franck at

Career and Technical Education Scholarships will go to FCPS high school seniors who are furthering their education in fields they first studied in FCPS’ Career & Technical Education program. Two scholarships will be awarded in the amount of $1,000 each. Email Jan McKeever at

Applications for both scholarships are due May 31.