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Fleetwood High junior Austin Conrad, 17, has been battling Desmoid Tumors since he was 10 and continues to fight this disease.
The hardest part for the Berks Career Technology Center electrical student is not being able to play sports.
“When I had my surgeries, it was hard to bounce back because I had to go through a lot of physical therapy and chemo treatments which would make me miss school,” said Austin. “Being sick when you get treatments is not fun. The tumor wrapped around my sciatic nerve which was very painful and nobody wants to go through that kind of pain.”
Fundraising for research to find a cure, Austin and his family will host the annual Walk for a Cure and Fall Festival for Austin’s Research Fund on Sept. 22 at the Kutztown Fairgrounds.
“We started this fundraising because Austin’s doctor told us that there was little to no research done on this type of tumor, so Austin asked my sister and myself if we could start raising money to find a cure so that no other child had to go through what he is going through,” said his mother Corinne Conrad.
“I like raising money to help find a cure so no other people have to go through what I and others that are battling go through,” said Austin.
They started fundraising in 2008 and handed over a check to The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia in the amount of $25,000 to be able to start the research.
“That is what they needed,” said Corinne. “As of today, we have handed over a total amount of $56,000.”
Knowing they have so much support from family, friends and the community has helped the Conrad family, said Corinne.
“Seeing what we accomplished through the years I feel helps Austin get through some tough times,” she said.
Some of the challenges of Desmoid Tumors for Corinne has been seeing her child go through two major surgeries where they removed 6-pound tumors each time. The last surgery he had, the tumor was attached to his sciatic nerve and it was very painful for him.
“We should not have to see our children go through such pain. He lost a lot of school after he had his surgeries due to physical therapy and lots of doctor appointments,” said Corinne. “The hardest part of this is when you try to get answers of what his future will be and they cannot tell us because they don’t know the outcome. I pray everyday that he will not loose his leg to this disease.”
Last year in 2011, they found an organization called Desmoid Tumor Research Foundation which is more advanced on research for Desmoid Tumors.
“After speaking with the two ladies who started the organization and learning what they were all about, we shared with the doctors in Philadelphia and they were supportive of our decision to support DTRF going forward,” said Corinne.
This year, all funds raised will be going to the Desmoid Tumor Research Foundation.
“I would like to educate people of what this disease can do to you, like what Kevin Reilly, a former Philadelphia Eagles player, who has lost his arm to Desmoid Tumors,” said Autin. “It feels good to give the money for research. 100 percent of the money we raise will be going to Desmoid Tumor Research Foundation, to put in a grant to help find a cure.”
This is theirfifth year hosting this event.
“We started a walk at the Bowers Park for two years and have grown since then and now moved to the Kutztown Fairgrounds. We try to make it fun for the whole family,” said Corinne.
The fundraising event includes live entertainment by the Majestics and a local boys group Dane Becker and the Chameleons. There will be craft and home show vendors, as well as children’s games and crafts, raffles, a silent auction, and home made baked goods and lots of food.
Walk for a Cure registration is from 9:30 to 10:30 a.m. and the walk begins at 10:45 a.m. at the Kutztown Fairgrounds. Live entertainment by the Majestics will be held at 11 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. and Dane Becker & the Chameleons perform at 1:30 p.m. A speaker from the Desmoid Tumor Research Foundation speaks at noon.
“We will be having two special guests here this year. The first guest is Ray McClelland who is on the show Car Warriors and then Kevin Reilly who is a former Philadelphia Eagles player who lost his arm to Desmoid Tumors,” said Corinne. “You might have heard that Rosie O’Donnell’s friend is also battling this disease.”
McClelland will also help judge the car and motorcycle show which will be held from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. For more car and motorcycle information visit www.clubautomotion.com.
What Austin likes about the annual event is seeing how many people are supportive.
“I hope nobody has to go through this disease because it can be life threatening and or could lose body parts. You could go through several surgeries to remove the tumor and then it re-grows and then repeats of surgery again. We need to find a cure or something to keep the tumors from growing,” said Austin, who sees himself becoming a lineman in the electrical field. He attends Berks Career Technology Center in Oley for Electrical.
His hobbies are playing Xbox and swimming and he enjoys learning about electrical work. He also works for Weis Markets in Kutztown.
“I have my learners permit and will drive my mom’s Galant until I earn enough money to buy what I really want, which is a Dodge Ram 2500 Cummin Truck,” said Austin. “I like cars and trucks, I also like to see what people do to make them look good. With Car Warriors they take two cars the same and have two teams design them in 48 hours (I can’t even imagine) but it looks fun and very tiring.I like watching Car Warriors because I like to see what different cars they build and how they perform.”
All proceeds for Austin’s Research Fund benefit the Desmoid Tumor Research Foundation.
To help, Corinne said people can enter a car or motorcycle at the event with a donation, they can give a monetary donation to DTRF and mail to Austin’s Research fund, P.O. Box 184 Fleetwood, PA 19522. If anyone has anything they would like to put in the Silent Auction or the Raffle, contact Corinne 610-944-7224 or Rochelle 610-207-3814.
Lastly, she suggested everyone “Bring your family for a day of fun for everyone,” said Corinne, for a car and motorcycle show, crafts and home vendor show, raffles, silent auction, kids games and crafts, homemade baked goods and lots of food.