High on an unbeaten season, a second regional championship and a shot at a state title, the Monroe Area Purple Hurricanes are hoping to use some of that celebrity for a very important cause this Friday.
At the first round of the playoffs in the Purple Pit in Monroe on Nov. 15, fans are being asked to support more than just the football team. They are being asked to also support 4-year-old Jake Russell.
You see, Jake too is a champion. For the last year he has been battling an extremely rare bone cancer – Ewing’s Sarcoma. A collection is being taken up at the first playoff game to raise money for childhood cancer research in Jake’s name.
Two months ago, Jake had his last round of chemotherapy – and the prognosis is good, his father says.
“He’s doing great,” Randy Russell said. “It has been just over two months since his last drops of chemo and he has recovered very quickly. He was cleared on November 1st to start putting weight on his left leg (surgery was 2/26/13) so he’s starting to get around a little better.”
According to the Facebook page dedicated to Jake’s fight against Ewing’s Sarcoma, the Monroe youth was diagnosed with the rare cancer on Nov. 3, 2012. The tumor was localized to his left tibia, which resulted in the need for surgery on Feb. 26 and the intensive rounds of chemotherapy. On Sept. 17 of this year, Jake’s scans came back clear.
Russell said tough as it was, his son took it all in his stride.
“He is so young that he couldn’t wrap his brain around the weight of what was happening. This worked for us and against us. It was good because he never got down about it. He has no idea how serious the situation is, but at the same time because of that can’t understand why he needs all of the horrible medicines and hospital trips. We took things one day at a time, and focused on what we could control. That helped us stay focused on the present and not the big picture,” Russell said, adding that although it wasn’t easy, the support they received from the people around them made it possible. “We had great support from our families, our friends and so many new friends we’ve met along the way. The community has also been incredibly supportive the entire time.”
That support is being sought again at the first round of the playoffs on Friday, not just for Jake, but for all children in the United States who are diagnosed with childhood cancer. According to a flyer advertising the fundraiser, cancer is reported to be the No. 1 disease killer of children. Every school day in America, 46 children are diagnosed with the disease.
In an event dubbed “4 Quarters 4 Research,” attendees at Friday’s game are invited to donate their change, money or even a check in Jake’s name to the Rally Foundation, a 501c3 that specializes in funding childhood cancer research.
“Ninety-three percent of all revenue is spent directly on research for all childhood cancers,” Russell said. “This past year, they funded a grant to Vanderbilt University in Jake’s name for the research of a genetic marker involved in Ewing’s sarcoma. In 2012, they funded over $1 million in grants for the first time in their history (just started in 2006).”
This Friday, the community has an opportunity to support the Monroe Purple Hurricanes in the opening round of the playoffs against Banneker – and at the same time help conquer childhood cancer.
Kickoff is at 7:30 p.m. in the Purple Pit, Monroe Area High School, 300 Double Springs Church Road, Monroe.
Tickets are $10.
(All photos courtesy of the Russell family from the Facebook page)