Today, Owen Waller lives the life of most 6th graders. He enjoys music, does well in school, plays video games, participates in Boy Scouts, and has a passion for baseball.
And though the Boardman resident has no trouble running the bases now, it wasn’t always that way.
Parents Maureen Frost and John Waller began noticing unusual symptoms – such as fatigue, cold hands, protruding belly button and pale appearance – in their son a few months before his second birthday. A doctor’s appointment the next day led to an ER visit, and a few days later, the 21 month old was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL).
Owen began an aggressive 3 ½-year treatment plan right away. His cancer treatment included surgeries, daily chemotherapy, bone marrow aspirations, spinal taps, injections, steroids and isolation from other children due to his weakened immune system.
“Isolation was very hard on him because all he wanted to do was play with other kids,” his father, John, said. “We were fortunate in that we were able to have him treated locally rather than have to travel, and we were also lucky to have a wonderful group of people looking after him who helped us immensely.”
Fortunately, Owen went into remission after the 30-day induction phase of his treatment, and has stayed that way ever since. He took his last chemo pill on April 19, 2009, and he recently passed his 7-year, off-treatment mark.
Now the 12 year old is ready to give back to those suffering in the same way he has.
Owen has agreed to be Lace Up 4 Pediatric Cancer’s 2016 athlete advocate for Akron Children’s Hospital Mahoning Valley. Though Owen was young, he distinctly remembers how difficult the isolation and medical treatments felt. His compassion for others stems from his own personal experiences.
“He is well aware of what he went through, and the experience has made him very empathetic to the suffering of others,”said John. “He has volunteered for several Akron Children’s events and fundraisers, as well as Relay for Life and St. Baldrick’s, among others. We are immensely proud of him.”
Go4TheGoal was founded in 2006 with the mission of improving the lives of children battling cancer. Lace Up 4 Pediatric Cancer is an initiative within the Go4TheGoal Foundation, which helps raise awareness and support for local children with cancer.
Athletes can purchase specially-designated gold shoe laces through Go4TheGoal and wear them during September’s Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. The laces are $5 each – with $4 from each pair plus 100 percent of all donations staying local to support Akron Children’s patients.
Here are ways to help if you’d like to raise funds and awareness for childhood cancer:
- Order laces for all your teammates and wear them to a game in September. It’s a great community service project for soccer, volleyball, football players, cheerleaders, cross country runners, gymnasts, dancers and other fall athletes from youth organizations all the way to the college level and beyond.
- Designate a game to the cause and collect donations and/or dedicate a portion of ticket and concession sales.
- Get your team’s rival involved and show your united goal of supporting local kids battling cancer.
- Post photos of your team wearing their gold laces & spread the word via social media. Use the hashtags #G4Gakronchildrens and #Go4theGoal.
- Promote Lace Up via flyers, your school’s fall athletic kick-off event, and with a PA announcement at the game.
- Get your entire school to Go Gold in September during Pediatric Cancer Awareness Month.
Want to get started? Contact Karen Flint at KarenFlint@Go4theGoal.org to get your team Laced Up.