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Class act / An outstanding young Western New Yorker

Ten-year-old Joseph Westphal knows what it's like to be a star.

The fifth-grader recently appeared in the Studio Arena Theatre production of "The Fourth Wiseman."

He also has been named one of Roswell Park Cancer Institute's new Stars of Hope.

Joseph, who lives in the Town of Tonawanda, was 11 months old when he was diagnosed with leukemia.

Today, he is a budding artist who prefers to work with markers, and one of his favorite activities is participating in the Roswell Park Paint Box Project. Four of his drawings are featured among this year's line of cards.

"I like to draw and be with my friends at Roswell Park," said Joseph, who attends St. Amelia School. "But mostly I'm glad about helping. The more money raised for cancer research, the greater the chances of finding a cure."

His parents, Mary and Daniel, remember difficult days.

"It was shocking, just unbelievable. You think of older people being diagnosed with cancer, not kids," said Mary Westphal.

Joseph was hospitalized for weeks at a time while he was aggressively treated with chemotherapy to kill the cancer. With support from family and friends, his parents made sure their son was never alone in the hospital.

Since Joseph doesn't remember those days, he doesn't really think about being a cancer survivor. Homework and hockey are on his mind these days.

But he does offer this message of hope:

"We [survivors] are the message. We're still alive, still helping others, still living. So we are the hope to patients that they can make it through as we did."

Know a young outstanding Western New Yorker? Tell us about your nomination, including date of birth and address, for possible publication in Class act. Sorry, photos cannot be returned. E-mail, or write to: Louise Continelli, The Buffalo News, P.O. Box 100, Buffalo, N.Y. 14240.

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