Friday, September 1, 2017

Football goes gold for cancer awareness by Brianna Crane, Denver Weekly



DENVER – On Sept. 1 the North Lincoln High School cheerleaders will wave gold pompoms and the Knights football players will sport gold socks as they take on Fred T. Foard under the lights.
The gold socks and pompoms will be provided by the Stand Firm Warrior Foundation – a nonprofit organization aimed to bring awareness to childhood cancer and alternative forms of treatment – in honor of children's cancer awareness month in September.
Michelle Love, the organization’s president, created the Stand Firm Warrior Foundation in honor of her son, BJ Correll. He was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) in 2012 two weeks into sixth grade at North Lincoln Middle, and was homebound for the rest of the school year.
“We tried all kinds (of chemotherapy), but the chemo didn’t work,” Love said.
She later explained “the leukemia cells became resistant” and a “few rogue cells” mutated and couldn’t be stopped.
Still, BJ endured, and by eighth grade, he was “looking healthy” and even excelled on the basketball and football teams.  
“He was a tough kid,” Love said. “When he was in chemo, he was working out.”
Love said he created 25-pound weights, strapped them to his back and would walk for miles on the treadmill, determined to build physical strength during his treatment. When he was at his healthiest, BJ was 6-foot-2 and 170 pounds.
“The leukemia was back,” Love said, noting that BJ relapsed while undergoing chemotherapy treatments. 
After months at Levine Children’s Hospital and a clinical trial at Duke University’s Cancer Center, Love had to make a difficult decision.
“On Feb. 20, 2016, we had done everything we could medically, it left him at about 115 pounds,” Love said. “We came home on kids path, which is a nice way of saying kids’ hospice.”
On March 4 BJ turned 15 years old, and on March 6 he passed away.
“He had all the faith in the world that God had this handled,” Love said. “When he left us, it was a shock… we still had all the hope in the world.”
In the wake of her loss, Love knew her son would want her to stand firm and continue to fight, thus the Stand Firm Warrior Foundation was born.
“I felt like we needed to find someone doing research,” Love said looking back on her son’s treatment journey. “I really believes that (chemotherapy) is what ended up killing my son.”
ALL, Love said, is one of the most curable types of children's cancers, yet many die from it each day.
“We need to keep getting the word out. Kids need funding, their cancer is not adult cancer,” Love said. “Most kid cancers are using adult treatments, and very few are formulated for children.”
Love said convincing NLHS to go gold for one game in September was simple, as the team has shown support for other forms of cancer as well.
“The kids deserve just as much awareness as the pink… their lives get cut off years before they can experience anything,” Love said.
Kickoff for the awareness game is at 7:30 p.m., but Love will be selling T-shirts beforehand at $10 each so the entire crowd has the opportunity to wear gold.
North Lincoln Middle will also host a children’s cancer awareness game on Friday Sept. 20. For more information about the games or the Stand Firm Warrior Foundation, visit standfirmwarrior.org.

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