FREMONT, Neb. (AP) — From a firetruck ride after a hospital stay to donations of T-shirt sales from an Olympic athlete, Drake Hegy has known the support of his community.
Now the Fremont Tribune reports the family of the 4-year-old boy who has been battling leukemia wants to give back.
So Drake's mom, Amanda, plans to run the Nike women's half marathon in Washington in honor of the child. Funds raised through the event will benefit the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. Her goal is to raise $4,000 through the 13.1 mile event.
“If our fundraising is successful and I can double our goal, I will commit to doing another half marathon in the fall to equal Drake's marathon of beating cancer,” the Fremont woman said.
Drake's marathon began in July 2011 when he began having high fevers. After antibiotics failed to work, Drake's parents took him to an emergency room in Fremont. He was flown by medical helicopter to Omaha where, after a bone-marrow biopsy, the 2-year-old was diagnosed with a rare form of lymphoblastic leukemia.
Doctors put together a protocol that included chemotherapy, spinal taps, steroids, clinic visits and hospital stays.
Thus far he has spent a total of more than 10 weeks in the hospital and has had approximately 30 spinal taps. The final leg of his race — his last chemotherapy treatment — is scheduled for November.
Last year was a good one for the child, however. He played T-ball, took swimming lessons and started preschool.
And he continued to develop his interest in all things related to firefighting.
“He probably owns 40 different firetrucks and a dollhouse that's a fire station, and he has the official fire gear that he wears every day,” his mom said.
Drake has worn a fireman costume the past two Halloweens. He thinks of his pet, a German shorthair pointer, as a “fire dog” and the family's couch as a “ladder truck.”
The first firefighter to make an impact on Drake was family friend Josh Tiemann, who lives with his wife, Jen Brown Tiemann, in LaGrange, Texas. Tiemann was the first to give Drake a virtual tour of a fire station, in Texas, and provide him with a firefighter outfit.
For his birthday in May Drake got a tour of the Fremont Fire Station — where he plans to work someday. He also visited the station during its open house in October.
Another family friend, Omaha Firefighter Ben Heller, collaborated with other firefighters to provide a special ride for Drake. The Waterloo Volunteer Fire Department took a firetruck to Children's Hospital & Medical Center in Omaha and gave the boy a ride home to Fremont.
He also got a T-shirt and captain's fire helmet.
“He was excited,” his mom said. “He grinned from ear to ear.”
Other support has come from former Logan View High School and University of Nebraska-Lincoln volleyball standout Jordan Larson, who was a member of the U.S. team that won a silver medal in the 2012 Summer Olympic Games in London.
The Hegys were at an event at Methodist Hospital in Omaha, where Drake got to see a firetruck and where Larson was signing autographs. Amanda introduced herself and Drake to Larson, unaware that the athlete had been searching for a family battling cancer to whom she could donate a portion of the proceeds from her T-shirt sales.
Larson's mother, Kae, was 51 when she lost her battle with cancer in 2009.
At the autograph session, Larson asked for the Hegys' contact information and later donated.
The Hegys appreciate everything that firefighters, nurses, doctors and others have done for them. So they hope to give back through the marathon.
Area residents may contribute toward the marathon in honor of Drake online at http://pages.teamintraining.org/ne/nikewhlf14/ash71310 and receive an email confirmation of that donation. Checks also may be sent to Amanda Hegy at 358 Deborah Ave., Fremont, NE 68025.
Any business wanting to become a corporate sponsor may contact her at email@example.com.
Those wanting to continue following Drake's story may do so via www.caringbridge.org/visit/drakehegy.
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