The Student News Site of Shawnee Mission Northwest


The Student News Site of Shawnee Mission Northwest


The Student News Site of Shawnee Mission Northwest


The New All-Stars

Photo courtesy of Chris Duderstadt

As Matthew Martin runs around the auxiliary gym wearing a baggy wrestling shirt, it’s hard to tell that he has cancer. If it were not for the surgical mask he wears, you wouldn’t be aware that anything is wrong with this energetic three-year-old. He wears sweatpants and light-up velcro shoes, playing basketball with athletic director Angelo Giacalone and never appearing to think about the battle for his life.

“Playing for ‘Pinky Swear’ is just an opportunity for student athletes to wrap their hearts around these families,” Community Development Representative Nikol Terrill said. “ let them know that they’re not alone in their fight and that somebody’s thinking about them.”

As Martin wakes up each morning at six, he takes his medications and then spends the rest of the day in the Hematology clinic alongside his mom, Amanda Moore. This has been their daily routine for the five months they have been living at Ronald McDonald house.

Martin was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL) in April. He had to leave Warrensburg, Mo. to seek treatment at Children’s Mercy hospital, where he was hospitalized until June. The Pinky Swear Foundation helps the family pay for some of their non-medical expenses, like the rent on their house back in Warrensburg.

Martin will be a Pinky Swear All-Star sponsored by the wrestling, swim and dive and bowling teams. This means that he will be able to make friends with the athletes and attend events that the coaches pick out for him, including each of the team’s senior nights. Martin does not let his cancer stop him from being active and enjoying his favorite sport, baseball. He will be sponsored by the baseball team in the spring.

“I am so excited, for him but also for the cancer community,” Moore said. “Before he was diagnosed, I did not know anybody with cancer. Personally, we are gaining some happiness and joy but this program is not about us. It’s what Matthew’s friends and other families are going to gain by having a community more aware of childhood cancer.”  

The other Pinky Swear All-Star is Gabe Putthoff who will be sponsored by the girls’ and boys’ basketball teams. He will sit on the bench when they play Lawrence on Feb. 9. Putthoff was diagnosed with stage four Neuroblastoma in 2007 when he was three years old.

“For me and for a lot of the kids, it is an opportunity what we see as problems, really don’t amount to as much as what others are going through,” head boys basketball coach Mike Rose said. “We can always continue to battle just like he has to everyday.”

From the minute Giacalone heard Terrill speak at a district athletic directors meeting, he was on board. Although he doesn’t know anyone who has had pediatric cancer, he wants to add them to the NW community while creating awareness for pediatric cancer, and raising donations for Pinky Swear grants. That is what the Pinky Swear All-Star program is about.

“When I heard about it I thought it was a great thing, it was people helping people,” Giacalone said. “It is about relationships. It is about what interscholastic is all about. Right now every day of their life is a struggle. You look at Matt. He is the happiest kid in the world. Let them experience some of the happiness. Let them laugh, let have some fun. That is huge for me.”

Shawnee Mission East and West also have All-Stars, but Northwest is the only school sponsoring two. Pinky Swear allows families to focus on helping their children fight against cancer, instead of worrying about everyday expenses.

One of the biggest fundraisers that Northwest did was selling the Pinky Swear packages during lunch. Donations will also be accepted at most sporting events. The Pinky Swear package raised $506.25 and overall the school has raised $1,195.87 for the organization. However, fundraising is not the only part of All-Star program. The other part is creating awareness for childhood cancer.

“It is only partially about the fundraising,” Giacalone said.” The other part is awareness for pediatric cancer and having the patients have an experience that can bring happiness into their lives.” How did Pinky Swear Start?

Pinky Swear started when nine-year-old pediatric cancer patient, Mitch Chepokas, noticed that other children in his cancer wing were not receiving presents for Christmas. He took $6,000 out of his bank account in $100 bills and went to deliver it in envelopes that said “I love you. — Mitch” to the other children. After that, Mitch asked his dad to pinky swear that he would help children with cancer, even after he was gone. That started Pinky Swear 12 years ago in Minneapolis.+Matt Owens and Reed Williams

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The New All-Stars