In a typical hockey fight, there is a winner and a loser – someone usually ends up on the bottom of the dog pile, and once in a while one or more parties is bloodied and bruised.
This Saturday, October 19, members of the LA Kings organization, which includes staff, fans and friends, will swarm Exposition Park for the Los Angeles Brain Tumor Walk to come together in a fight where there will be no losers.
All funds raised through the Walk will go towards research initiatives and informative resources, which will aid the 688,000 people in the US living with a primary brain tumor, and the more than 66,000 who will be diagnosed this year.
On October 25, 2012 Lauren Wiedmeier, a rink account executive for the LA Kings fan development department, received a call from her mother in Ohio. It was then that she heard the news that her father had suffered a seizure, which led to the discovery of a golf ball-sized brain tumor above his right ear. Although the tumor was promptly removed, Bryan Wiedmeier was diagnosed with Glioblastoma Multiforme, Grade 4, the most aggressive form of brain cancer.
“A contact of mine recommended I reach out to the National Brain Tumor Society as a resource and for an opportunity to get involved,” Lauren recalls.
Lauren not only joined the LA Walk’s organizing committee, but recruited others as well, forged a relationship between the Kings Care Foundation and NBTS, and is captaining the LA Kings Walk Team.
“The Kings Care Foundation didn’t hesitate to partner with NBTS, and I’m excited by the support the Kings Community has shown to help unite in the fight against brain tumors,” says Lauren. “Currently, there is no cure for brain tumors, but the Kings Care Foundation is fiercely committed to helping NBTS find more effective treatments and ultimately a cure.”
Thanks to medical technology and successful treatment, Lauren’s efforts are coming just as Bryan will surpass the first anniversary of his diagnosis.
One person who has happily supported NBTS efforts with Lauren is Laura Baker, president of Echoes of Hope, the non-profit organization founded by Kings President of Business Operations, Luc Robitaille.
In 1997 Laura’s mother, Nancie, was also diagnosed with Glioblastoma Multiforme, Grade 4. Only a junior in high school at the time, Laura remembers all too well listening to her dad inform her and her younger sister of their mom’s condition.
“I felt like I had been hit by a brick wall. I literally couldn’t breathe,” describes Laura. “I was terrified. I was devastated. I was heartbroken.”
Nancie had her first surgery just days after her diagnosis, but at the time, only a small portion of the tumor could be removed. The next 15 months, Nancie underwent five more surgeries, plus multiple rounds of chemotherapy and radiation before ultimately losing her fight.
“I felt so helpless while watching my mom's battle with her brain tumor. Getting involved with NBTS seemed like a perfect way to feel like I could fight against brain tumors and hopefully make a difference in the lives of those affected,” says Laura, who is also part of the Walk’s organizing committee, handling volunteer recruitment.
One member of the Kings family who is familiar with the importance of brain tumor research is Samantha Lin, who has been a Kings season seat holder for the past six years. Samantha’s older brother, Sean Dunn, was diagnosed with Oligodendroglioma, Grade 2 with an area for Grade 3, and Samantha remembers watching her husband play hockey as she got the call from her mother.
Sean’s original tumor was the size of a grapefruit, and after his first surgery, it was discovered during an MRI that 15% of the tumor still remained. Eight years later, in 2011, the tumor grew to the size of a lemon.
“The reason it came back, more than anything, was that the technology wasn’t there,” Samantha declares.
When Sean had surgery to remove the second tumor, doctors were able to use an MRI in the middle of the procedure to determine they had gotten the entire mass, something that technology didn’t afford in 2003.
“Knowing that the research that had been done in that eight years was what made my brother stay alive today, made us want to raise what funds we could,” Samantha said regarding her eagerness to participate in the Walk.
On Saturday, Samantha’s family will be joined by a cancer-free Sean, who is flying all the way in from Michigan, just for the Walk.
The LA Kings Walk team is also comprised of two people that fans may already be familiar with, as their story was shared via LAKings.com back in June. Matt Wells and his girlfriend Jennifer Morgan will be walking in support of Matt’s battle with a brain tumor, which he was diagnosed with this past April.
Since their story broke, Matt has had some short-term memory loss and poor memory recall, which he tries to combat by writing in a personal journal, largely influenced by Kings hockey, and information he gathers through LAKings.com and LA Kings Insider Blog entries.
“Our Kings Family has been a rock of support through Matt’s healing process. As fans, we have always been deeply invested into the success of our team,” Jennifer expresses. “But now, we have been graced with the Kings interest and consideration for Matt’s continued progress. Knowing we have a family of fans and champions rooting for us, we can only have hope going forward.”
The Kings Care Foundation is supporting the LA Kings Walk Team efforts, and the NBTS was present at STAPLES Center during the Kings game on October 9, trying to recruit walkers and spread awareness.
“The Kings have some of the best and most passionate fans not just in LA, not just in hockey, but anywhere. Getting the word out to the fans will be a great way for us to continue to raise money and support for this great cause,” says Bryan Bishop, who is in his second year as committee chairman for the NBTS LA Brain Tumor Walk.
Bishop, a radio personality who is best known for his work with Adam Carolla, was diagnosed with a brain tumor in 2009 and has since undergone chemotherapy, radiation, and other forms of rehabilitation.
To join the LA Kings’ battle against brain tumors, sign up to walk, volunteer, or make a tax-deductible donation by visiting www.braintumorcommunity.org/goto/lakings.
In this fight, there won’t be any fighting majors handed out…as Jennifer said, just hope.
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