As Ft. Thomas Boy Battles Cancer, His Highlands Classmates Rally for Him
A freshman at Highlands High School diagnosed with leukemia has seen a swell of support from his classmates this month as they prepare to participate in The Campbell County Relay for Life that will take place on May 8 and 9 at Tower Park in Ft. Thomas.
Brady Walz was diagnosed last year on May 7 which has kept him out of school this year, but the freshman class at Highlands has organized a team called Brady's Bluebirds which will walk in shifts at Friday night's American Cancer Society event.
There is also a faculty team called Walkin' for Walz who will walk in support of Brady as well. In total, there are over 200 walkers registered from Highlands.
Kennon Burns is a teacher at Highlands and helped spearhead the effort by talking to the freshmen that come through her classroom each day.
“I have been extremely proud of my freshmen,” she said. “We have one of our own so we can make this event a very personal thing and put a picture to this event. It doesn't have to be something that is not real life to them. I presented it to them and said, it's yours, we can do whatever you guys want to do and they have just totally embraced it.”
The students have designed and sold t-shirts that they will wear during their team photo on Friday before the race. They sell the shirts and are giving all the proceeds to the American Cancer Society. One girl even made crafty gifts to sell in support of Brady's fight with cancer.
“I have one freshman girl who is an artist and she is making a remembrance art piece on her own. She has put in a ton of time and making little gifts that have to do with hope and cancer and she is selling them and all of the proceeds go to the American Cancer Society,” Burns said.
Prior to his diagnosis, Brady was an athlete with plans to play football for the Bluebirds. His goal is to suit up and play football next season with support of his friends at the school.
“Brady is a good kid, and I think these kids are doing something that usually only adults do,” Burns said. “You have to understand that a 14-year-old doesn't think outside of their own little world, and these kids are thinking outside of their own little world and that was the whole goal of this.”
There are a variety of planned events over the course of the weekend.
The keynote speaker for the event is Campbell County native and WXIX news anchor Tricia Macke, who lives with her family in Ft. Thomas. The Opening Ceremony brings everyone together for a high-energy event kickoff to recognize those who have battled cancer, to inspire hope by sharing recent accomplishments and progress, and to remind everyone that while there are victories in the battle against cancer, fighting the disease is a year-round priority.
During the Survivors Lap, upbeat music plays as all cancer survivors at the event take the first lap around the track cheered on by other participants who line the track, celebrating their victory over cancer.
During the Caregivers Lap, anyone who ever cared for someone with cancer walks a lap so they can be honored for their support. Caregivers walk this lap with the people they have helped if they are also present at the event.
The Luminaria Ceremony is a time to remember people lost to cancer, to support people who currently have cancer, and to honor people who have fought cancer in the past. The ceremony takes place after dark, and its power lies in providing an opportunity for people to work through their grief and find hope.
Every Northern Kentucky community allows every resident to participate in Relay For Life, in addition to Northern Kentucky University and Thomas More College. In 2014, the Northern Kentucky community raised over $275,000 toward the fight against cancer. As a result of these fundraising efforts, local cancer patients were given rides to treatment by Road to Recovery.
Written by Bryan Burke, associate editor
Photo: Brady Walz (via Facebook)