This will be a special Thanksgiving for the Woods family of Westerville because they will all be together, unlike many previous holidays when they've called J-5 home.

This will be a special Thanksgiving for the Woods family of Westerville because they will all be together, unlike many previous holidays when they've called J-5 home.

J-5 is the cancer floor at Nationwide Children's Hospital.

Mason Woods was 3 when he was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) in 2003. It took more than three years of treatment before the disease went into remission. Fifteen months later, in August 2007, he relapsed and was facing several years "of really intensive chemotherapy," said his mother, Andrea Woods.

Or he could go through three to four months of chemo if an exact bone marrow donor could be found.

The best chance of that was a sibling -- in Mason's case his older brother, Trey.

When his parents asked him how he felt about being tested, Trey said he'd "do it in a heartbeat," said his mom.

"I think when he found out he was a perfect match, he was relieved," she said.

"I was really happy about that," Trey said.

The transplant took place on Jan. 8, 2008. Ten months later, Mason remains in remission.

When asked if this has brought them closer, the boys said in unison "kind of."

Not everything is perfect, though.

Mason had stick-straight hair before the latest round of chemo. Now he has a full head of curls. When asked if he suffered any adverse effects from the marrow transplant, Mason said, "I got his bad allergies."

"At least they weren't food (allergies), just ragweed," answered his brother.

The two also share the same DNA now.

Mason is back in school full-time in the third grade at Fouse Elementary School and Trey is a seventh-grader at Genoa Middle School.

Both are featured as November's heroes in the 2008-09 Pennies for Patients Hero Calendar, published by The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society's Central Ohio Chapter.

Pennies for Patients is an annual fundraiser for the local chapter. Money raised helps families whose lives have been affected by the disease, said Kathy Chipps, Pennies for Patients director.

During the 2007-08 school year, more than 350 schools in the 38-county service area raised more than $355,000 through Pennies for Patients, a part of the Leukemia Society's school and youth programs. Between Feb. 2 and Feb. 20, 2009, students at about 400 elementary, middle and high schools in the chapter's coverage area hope to raise more than $369,000 for blood cancer research.

No school in central Ohio raised more money last year than Genoa Middle School, Chipps said. Students there raised $9,315 last year; over the past five years, they have raised nearly $49,000.

Ten Westerville schools have already signed up for the next program, Chipps said, and she's hoping for more before it starts in February.

Not only is Pennies for Patients a fundraising program, but it also has an educational component -- the Hero Program -- that explains blood-borne cancers to children and how they are treated.

"Kids get to ask questions and we talk about why kids lose their hair, that it's not contagious, why children that are sick only come to school half a day or not at all," Chipps said.

Fouse students have done a lot for the kids on J-5, said Andrea Woods, raising $4,500 last year that went to buy Wiis for the patients' rooms, games and toys, a television and a bike.

"We feel fortunate that we were at this hospital and also for The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society," Woods said. "They do give money to families. We were fortunate enough that Eddie (Mason and Trey's dad) has a good job and his employer stood behind us the whole time, so we did not have to go to them ... We always knew it was there if we needed it."

Trey said he would tell anyone who is asked to be a donor "to do it. It only hurt a little bit and you're helping someone out, maybe even saving their life."

To make a donation to Pennies for Patients or to register a school, visit www.schoolandyouth.org/coh or call Chipps at (614) 476-7194, extension 229.

cpreston@thisweeknews.com