OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) – A family from Valley, Nebraska has teamed up with the Omaha Metro Area Wrestling Association and the Team Jack Foundation to continue their mission to advance awareness and funds for childhood brain cancer research.
Kieran Akerson has struggled since he was five years old, but something went wrong last season.
“Last season he kept getting shots in his arm, like a wrestling injury, so we ended up getting an MRI on his neck and in December we found a brain tumor,” said Marie Akerson, Kieran’s mother.
“I was just shocked,” Kieran says. “When they told me, I burst into tears a bit.”
Kieran had surgery in January to remove the tumor, but he still has residual tumor left, meaning he continues to see doctors and get scans every few months.
“As we kind of started taking that journey, we found out how small the funding is for childhood brain cancer,” Marie tells 6 News. “4% of federal funding goes to all childhood cancers and only a small percentage of that goes to brain cancer.”
Marie came across a Team Jack support group where she learned more about the foundation and its goals.
“We just decided we wanted to do more, wrestling is very important to our family, so we decided to do a wrestling tournament. [to] help raise money, donate everything to Team Jack and that’s how this tournament came about.”
Sunday morning, more than 300 youth wrestlers took to the mats at the Sapp Field House on the UNO campus for Kieran’s first annual Takedown the Tumor Nationals wrestling tournament.
Some of those wrestlers raised money themselves prior to the tournament. The goal was to raise $40,000 and at last check they were $60,000.
“I didn’t expect there to be a lot of people here, but then I saw everyone supporting and it’s just a crazy experience,” Kieran told 6 News.
“All the money here stays local, it’s basically for treatment and options for kids like Kieran not to have to travel for good health care,” Marie says.
That money will go to Team Jack’s Power5 Brain Tumor Initiative, which funds the Pediatric Brain Tumor Program at the University of Nebraska Medical Center and Children’s Hospital. The initiative supports research and education.
“The support from the wrestling community has been tremendous since he was diagnosed, we’ve had an outpouring of love and support, it’s amazing we had such a great turnout especially during COVID times and it’s early in the season and we are so happy with all the support and such a good turnout today”, Marie added.
The Akerson family say they hope to continue this new tradition and are excited to see it continue to grow from year to year.
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