Family, community support boy battling leukemia

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FREMONT, Neb. (AP) — From a fire truck 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 (http://bit.ly/1eM1OCE ) the family of 4-year-old boy who's 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 and 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 — at age 2 — he was diagnosed with a rare form of lymphoblastic leukemia after a bone marrow biopsy.

Doctors put together a protocol that included chemotherapy, spinal taps, steroids, clinic visits and hospital stays.

Thus far, he has spent a total of 74 days in the hospital. He 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 fire trucks and a doll house that's a fire station and he has the official fire gear that he wears every day," his mom said.

Drake has been a fireman for Halloween during the last two years. He considers his pet, a German shorthair pointer, as a "fire dog" and the family's couch as a "ladder truck."

The first firefighter to impact 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 Department 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 firemen to provide a special ride for Drake. The Waterloo Volunteer Fire Department brought a fire truck to Children's Hospital in Omaha and gave the boy a ride home to Fremont.

He also got a T-shirt and captain's fire helmet.

Drake really enjoyed the ride.

"He was excited," his mom said. "He grinned from ear to ear."

Other support has come from former Logan View and University of Nebraska-Lincoln volleyball standout Jordan Larson, who was part of the U.S. silver-medal-winning team in the 2012 Olympic Games in London.

The Hegys were at an event at Methodist Hospital in Omaha, where Drake got to see a fire truck 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 proceeds from her T-shirts.

Larson's mother, Kae, was 51 when she lost her battle with cancer in 2009.

During the autograph session, Larson asked for the Hegy's contact information and later donated.

It is the support of family, friends and various agencies that has helped the family throughout this time. Family members and friends have watched the Hegys' youngest son, Gage, when Drake has been hospitalized. People have covered Amanda's shift at St. Francis Memorial Hospital in West Point, where she is an occupational therapist. Her husband, Josh, is golf course superintendent at the Pines Country Club in Valley. People there have been supportive, too.

Hegy also cites support from the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society (LLS), the American Red Cross and Children's Hospital in Omaha. The Hegys appreciate everything that firefighters, nurses, doctors and others have done for them.

So they hope to give back through the marathon. Amanda is a participant in the society's Team in Training program. 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. Those without computer access may send a check to Amanda at 358 Deborah Ave., Fremont, NE 68025.

Any business wanting to become a corporate sponsor may contact her at amandahegy@gmail.com.

Hegy said friends Chad and Kristin Bartholomew of Ord have asked friends to donate to the marathon for LLS in lieu of wedding gifts.

Each donation helps accelerate finding a cure for leukemia, lymphoma and myeloma — and that almost 958,000 Americans are battling these blood cancers, she said.

Those wanting to continue following Drake's story may do so via www.caringbridge.org/visit/drakehegy.

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Information from: Fremont Tribune, http://www.fremontneb.com

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