STEVE WILSON: Childhood Cancer Awareness Month Ends – Cancer Does Not!
By Steve Wilson // October 2, 2023
Support Needed 12 Months a Year
BREVARD COUNTY, FLORIDA – The month of September has aways been special to my broadcasting partner, Orville Susong and me, especially Friday nights. We are fortunate to have a platform such as Space Coast Daily to broadcast high school football games every Friday night.
During the month of September, which is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, we honor one young person at our football games that has or is currently battling cancer.
This past month, with the permission of their parents, we selected five very special young people to honor, two who are no longer with us.
Ryan Narey, from Rockledge, died of cancer in 2002. Ryan was a wonderful young man we knew very well. In fact, Susong was one of Ryan’s baseball coaches.
Brittany Beyel, a precious eight-year-old, died in 2008 of cancer. Her name lives on through Brittany’s Wish, a non-profit that supports families dealing with pediatric cancer. I had the pleasure of interviewing Brittany’s grandmother, Linda Roggenkamp, a couple of weeks ago. She is the president of Brittany’s Wish, Inc.
Vivian Sleeth, an eight-year-old from Rockledge was diagnosed in 2022 with DIPG, which is a rare form of brain cancer with no known cure. During the past month Viv spent time at our nation’s capital receiving treatment and attending CureFest for Childhood Cancer 2023.
Olivia Owens, an eight-year-old from Palm Bay, is also battling DIPG. As I write this, Livi Belle is at Nemours Children’s Hospital in Orlando in the ICU. Olivia, like Vivian, continues her courageous battle against DIPG.
Bailey Moody, a senior at the University of Alabama, lost her leg to cancer at the age of 10. She grew up playing basketball and did not let cancer stop her from the sport she loves. Bailey continued playing basketball by participating in wheelchair basketball leagues and has represented the USA multiple times, including the 2020 Tokyo Summer Paralympic Games, earning the bronze medal.
Now that Childhood Cancer Awareness Month has concluded, it is time for us to fully understand that childhood cancer does not end on September 30. Viv, Livi, Bailey and countless others deal with cancer every single day.
As we move into October, a lot of awareness will be brought through Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and rightfully so. It is a disease that affects millions. Statistics show that 1 in 8 women will develop breast cancer. It is a horrific disease.
However, it is equally important for us as a society not to forget the horrors of childhood cancer. This disease needs to be eradicated….NOW! It all comes down to research, which means funding. The purpose of this article is not to ask you to fund pediatric cancer research, although if you feel compelled to do so, that’s a good thing! This article is meant to create awareness and understanding.
I recently heard from Titusville High School 2020 graduate Sydney Creel, who was diagnosed with cancer at age seven. She is in and out of hospitals all too often battling cancer. I don’t think I have ever seen Sydney without a smile on her face. She is an amazing young lady that will one day beat cancer!
I know there is hope. During this past month I interviewed pediatric cancer survivors Julie Spurlock and Jessica Maxwell. Both have long-term issues to deal with related to their cancer battle, but both are still with us, attending college, and doing remarkably well. This is what I want for Viv, Livi, Bailey, Sydney and all other young people living with cancer.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Steve Wilson was born in DeRidder, Louisiana and grew up in both New Orleans and Macon, Georgia. He moved to Brevard County in 1984 and retired from local government as the Community Advocate/Assistant to the City Manager with the City of Rockledge in 2018.
Among the awards and accolades Steve has received over the years are 15 + year Rockledge Little League volunteer, Brevard Public School Jefferson Award Recipient, Rockledge High School Raider Booster Award 2001, 2006, City of Rockledge Employee of the Year 2006, Rockledge Kiwanian of the Year 2006-2007, City of Rockledge Quality Public Service Award 2008, 2012, 2017, Rockledge Kiwanis Citizen of the Year 2012-2013, Space Coast Sports Hall of Fame – Sportscasting 2015, Rockledge High School Leadership and Service Award 2016, Central Florida Humanitarian Award 2017, Space Coast Inspiration Award – 2018 and Space Coast Sports Hall of Fame – Lifetime Achievement – 2020.
Wilson is especially proud of is chairing two fundraisers in support of pediatric cancer research through the St. Baldrick’s Foundation in honor of Merritt Island resident Julie Spurlock that raised over $25,000.00.
He has been a partner, along with Orville Susong, for the past 24 years with the Friday Night Locker Room, a broadcasting team that covers and reports on a wide variety of local events that are of significance to the residents of the Space Coast and beyond. Their mission is to promote youth sports, support first responders and law enforcement personnel, and showcase community and charitable events that are produced by our nonprofit partners in central Florida.
The Friday Night Locker Room has awarded hundreds of sports achievement plaques to Brevard County student-athletes over the years. They have also awarded more than $18,000 in academic scholarships to Brevard County high school seniors.