Smyrna School District fundraisers for childhood cancer culminate in "Be Bold, Go Gold" football game at high school

Gold sparkled at schools and sports events in the Smyrna School District this week for the “Be Bold, Go Gold” campaign to raise funds and awareness of childhood cancer. September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, and gold is the representative color because our children are more precious than gold.

Two of the events open to the community were the Smyrna High School volleyball game on Thursday and the high school football game Friday. The volleyball team hosted the “Bumping Out Childhood Cancer” game, wearing special black-and-gold shirts and collecting donations for Kay’s Kamp for children with cancer.

The football team hosted the "Be Bold, Go Gold" game Friday with the Letterman’s Club selling cookies and gold ribbons, and the Air Force Junior ROTC selling gold t-shirts. Before the game, the Eagles recognized students who are going through cancer treatment or have overcome cancer as honorary captains on the field.

Those honorary captains included:

Kate McKinery, 9, receives treatment at Nemours/ A.I. du Pont Children’s Hospital for an optic nerve tumor. She was originally diagnosed just before she turned 2 and is currently in her fifth treatment plan. Her tumor is large and non-aggressive but presses on several areas in the brain causing secondary vision and hormonal issues. She is an active fourth grade student and routinely makes High Honor Roll. She loves to dance and has just started cello lessons.

Alice Chastain, a third grader at Smyrna Elementary, loves kayaking, roller skating, girl scouts, the beach, hanging out with friends and family and her dog. On June 2, 2017 Alice underwent brain surgery to remove a large tumor. Amazingly, she was home just three days after surgery. Alice was diagnosed with Anaplastic Ependymoma, an aggressive form of brain cancer. She is currently receiving proton therapy, a specialized form of radiation, to zap the cancer cells. She only has three more treatments left and is looking forward to returning to school, cancer free!

Nathan Brown, 14, is a freshman at Smyrna High School. He lives with his parents Rhonda and Richard Ricks along with his 4-year-old sister Brianna. He enjoys video games, playing basketball with friends and collecting sneakers. Nathan was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, a type of bone cancer, on March 22, 2016. He received treatment at Nemours/A.I. du Pont Children’s Hospital from March 2016 until Nov. 11, 2016. Nathan recently learned from routine scans that he has relapsed and his cancer has returned. He started treatment last week for a second time at Nemours/A.I. du Pont Children’s Hospital.

Manny Patterson, now 16, was diagnosed in July of 2014 with Stage 4 Rhabdomyosarcoma which is a very rare soft tissue cancer. When diagnosed the cancer had metastasized to his lung, sternum, spine, thigh, skull, jugular and bones. Immanuel was very athletic and ran on the track team for his school. He loves playing basketball and an injury while doing so revealed the cancer in his body. Today, Manny is cancer free.

David Fu, 18, is a 2017 graduate of Smyrna High School, now attending the University of Delaware. On June 30, 2009 he was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia. It has been a tough journey and was very hard being told you have cancer at the age of 10. With support from family and friends he made it through some tough and scary times. David is grateful for each day. Cancer has taught him to keep moving forward, to never give up, always live life to the fullest and enjoy it.

Colby Atkinson, 18, is also a 2017 graduate of Smyrna High School last year. He is now majoring in sports management at the University of Delaware. Right after he finished his freshman season of football he was diagnosed with T-cell Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia in December 2013. After five months of chemotherapy, Colby had a life-saving bone marrow transplant on April 17, 2014. The support of friends and family helped him get through the toughest of times. Colby smiles each day and has not let cancer define who he is.

Jadon Denson couldn’t attend Friday’s game but her grandmother Teressa Denson and Aunt Andrea Amiss represented her at the event. Jadon is 10 years old and a student at John Bassett Moore Intermediate School. She has seven siblings: three brothers and four sisters. Her favorite color is pink and her favorite “Monster High” character is Draculara. Jadon was recently diagnosed with B-cell Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia on Aug. 3. After completing her first round of chemotherapy, she was told on Sept. 5 that she was in remission. Even though she is in remission she still has to undergo chemo treatments, lumbar punctures, and labs over the next two and a half years. She has been so strong and brave throughout her journey! She is the true definition of a hero!

Leading the organization of the childhood cancer awareness events in the Smyrna School District was Virginia Atkinson, the mother of Colby Atkinson.

She said the greatest obstacle in curing pediatric cancer is lack of research funds. Less than four percent of the federal budget for cancer research is dedicated to childhood cancers. In the past 20 years, only two new drugs have been approved for children’s cancer.

Every day, approximately 250 kids around the world die from cancer. That is 91,250 children that lose their life to this disease every year. Childhood cancer is the leading cause of death by disease in children under the age of 15 in the United States. Meanwhile, three out of five children diagnosed with cancer will suffer from long term chronic side effects from treatment.

Alice Chastain’s mom, Jennifer Thornton, said events like the “Be Bold, Go Gold” game are an "awesome" way to raise awareness and funds for childhood cancer.

“It shows the spirit of community and lets us know we’re not alone,” said Thornton. “ It’s really cool of Smyrna High School to do something like this.”

As an honorary captain at the game, Alice said she enjoyed going on the field for the pre-game ceremony.

“I liked when they did the coin flip,” she said, referring to the toss that determines which team will receive the opening kickoff.

Alice faced her cancer treatments with a positive attitude and said she’s actually going to miss going to the hospital because she really liked the doctors, nurses and staff members.

Honorary captain Kate McKinery said she enjoyed the pre-game ceremony although she felt somewhat anxious at first.

“I was a little nervous, but I thought it was good. I felt like I have the support of everyone,” said Kate.

Her mother, Amber McKinery, who is a Smyrna police officer, said the “Be Bold, Go Gold” event is important because more money is needed to fund research of childhood cancer which can be vastly different than cancer in adults.

“It is underfunded nationally. Many of the drug treatments were created for adults, not children, and that causes side effects in children. I think it’s great that the school is raising money to help with projects that help with childhood cancer,” said Amber.

Honorary captain Manny Patterson said he thought the “Be Bold, Go Gold” game was important to give hope to other students going through cancer.

“I thought it was a great opportunity to show that my family and I went through this journey together and overcame it,” said Manny, who had to go through physical therapy to learn how to walk again after his cancer treatments.

His mother, Robin Patterson, thanked Virginia Atkinson and Smyrna High School for including them at the special ceremony.

“Virginia was very instrumental when Manny was first diagnosed. We didn’t even know each other, but she sent me a card and offered to help because she and her family have been through the same experience,” said Robin.

When her son was diagnosed with cancer, “it was a roller coaster," she said. "Everything happened so fast. It was so unexpected."

She said events like the “Be Bold, Go Gold” game create a wonderful feeling.

“To bring the community together, where people you don’t even know are showing their support -- it creates a feeling of camaraderie, a circle of people who have been through what you’ve been through,” she said.

FUNDRAISER OCT. 7 IN MIDDLETOWN

The Pattersons are helping with the “Crush Cancer” fundraiser on Saturday, Oct. 7 at the Hampton Inn in Middletown, raising money for Alex’s Lemonade Stand, the Make-A-Wish Foundation and the B+ Foundation.

For more information on the event, email firstladyrtp@gmail.com.