Cancer strikes about one in every 600 children. A few years ago Jennifer Ward's 3-year-old sister Katie was diagnosed as being one of them.

"At that time she underwent extensive radiation and chemotherapy treatment," the former Miss South Salt Lake says of her little sister's, and by extension her family's, ordeal. "Then, after about a year and a half she was officially pronounced in remission and there've been no problems since. But she still has to make regular trips to the hospital."She's not alone. Since her sister contracted leukemia, Ward has been visiting the hospital once a week to assist similarly afflicted children. There she works under the supervision of a child-life specialist to "help in an emotional way and keep the children happy by encouraging them and working with various paints and colors and different kinds of educational toys."

This weekend, moreover, she is extending that help beyond the cancer clinic, launching what she ambitiously calls the First Annual Young Artists Benefit Concert to assist childhood leukemia victims Sunday, May 19, at 8 p.m. at St. Ann's Church, 450 E. 2100 South.

"Because of what we had gone through, we had some appreciation of the sacrifice involved," the University of Utah freshman says of her effort. "About 20 years ago children with leukemia were given a prognosis of only a few months, with very few survivors." In recent years that has been turned around, so that where 80 percent once died, now around 80 percent survive, with treatment. "But the higher success rate has also brought a higher cost, partly because of the length of treatment."

With that in mind, Ward, who is an accomplished violinist, set about recruiting several of her colleagues to perform on a volunteer basis at this weekend's concert. And, she says, she didn't get a a single turndown.

"They all thought it was a good cause and acted as though they were honored to be asked."

As a result, patrons will be hearing some of northern Utah's most honored young musicians doing what they do best on Sunday. Among the pianists, three-time Utah Symphony-Deseret News "Salute to Youth" soloist Janae Codner will solo in music of Chopin and Mozart (the finale of the Piano Concerto No. 17); Logan's Tamami Honma, also a former "Salute to Youth" soloist, will be heard in "Scarbo" from Ravel's "Gaspard de la Nuit"; Provo's Dustin Gledhill will perform a Scarlatti sonata and a Chopin etude; and Salt Lake's Francie Lin will play the latter composer's Scherzo No. 4.

In addition Salt Lake harpist Catherine Cannon, a 1990 Presidential Scholar in the Arts, will solo in Pierne's "Impromptu Caprice"; Springville flutist Kimberly B. Helton will perform an extract from Martinu's Sonata No. 1; double bass player Benjamin Henderson, of Clinton, will be heard in music of Bottesini; and Ward will perform the "Scherzo-Tarantelle" of Wieniawski. Both Henderson and Ward are likewise former Utah Symphony soloists.

Nor are they the only ones volunteering their talents and resources.

Ward says Skyline Printing took care of all the posters, fliers, tickets and programs. ("They spent days and did thousands of them for me.") By the same token the American Cancer Society handled the mailings, courtesy of a list provided by the Suzuki Association of Utah. American Label donated all the mailing labels. The Flower Plant is supplying the floral arrangements. Daynes Music Co. is supplying the piano. And, of course, St. Ann's is providing the church.

"I played a concert there last summer, when I was Miss South Salt Lake," Ward recalls, "and remembered that when I got the idea to do this one. It has the right seating capacity, about 800, and is a beautiful-sounding building."

All proceeds from the concert will go to the American Cancer Society, directly benefiting children with leukemia. Additional donations are welcome.


Benefit concert tickets

The First Annual Young Artists Benefit Concert to assist childhood leukemia victims Sunday, Mya 19, at 8 p.m. at St. Ann's Church, 450 E. 2100 South.

Admission to Sunday's concert is $8 for adults or $5 for children t to 12, with tickets available in advance from the Symphony Hall box office 533-NOTE, or at the door.