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Benefit 5K walk hopes to slay sarcoma

Dragonslayer walk raises money for Northwest Sarcoma Foundation to fight rare cancer


by: SUBMITTED PHOTO - The annual Dragonslayer walk to cure sarcoma moves to Cook Park this weekend. The event raises money for the Northwest Sarcoma Foundation. More than 450 people are expected at Cook Park on Saturday for the fourth annual Dragonslayer walk to cure Ewings sarcoma.

“That’s more than we have ever had before,” said April Brenneman, a Tigard mother who is organizing this year’s walk.

The rare cancer attacks nerves, muscles, joints, bones and other connective tissues, but scientists have yet to find a cure for the tough disease, which is often resistant to treatment.

“When my son was diagnosed with Ewings sarcoma in 2004, his treatment was the same treatment used in the early 1980s,” Brenneman said. “There has been little research on sarcoma, because it is a rarer cancer.”

Brenneman’s son, Josh, was diagnosed at the age of 4, when a tumor was found in his vertebra.

Now 11, Josh has been cancer-free for the better part of a decade, but was left with a tracheotomy and other issues.

The Northwest Sarcoma Foundation founded the Dragonslayer bike, hike or trike event eight years ago in Seattle.

The family-friendly event helps to raise awareness about the disease, and raises money for the Northwest Sarcoma Foundation.

The money will go toward research and financial aid for families.

The Children’s Healing Art Project will be on hand with art projects for children, including a car that kids will be able to paint, Brenneman said.

Prizes will also be awarded for the largest team, the highest-grossing fundraisers and the walkers with the most “team spirit.”

The annual event is a great way to bring the small community affected by sarcoma together, Brenneman said.

“Often people with sarcoma feel so alone, but to see everyone together and all the support that there is out there, it’s very uplifting,” she said.

About 12,000 people are diagnosed with sarcoma each year, Brenneman said, many of them children.

Sarcoma makes up only 1 percent of adult cancers, but 15 percent of childhood cancers, Brenneman said.

“In the Pacific Northwest alone, we expect about 400 people will be diagnosed this year with sarcoma,” Brenneman said.

But where did the walk get such an unusual name? Brenneman said one of the patients at Seattle Children’s Hospital, where the foundation was first started, told doctors the cancer was like a dragon, which her doctors, nurses and family and friends were helping her to slay.

“So Dragonslayer was born,” Brenneman said.

For the past several years, the walk was held in Portland, but moves to Tigard this year, Brenneman said. “I love Tigard, and my children have grown up walking to Cook Park, playing in Cook Park, playing soccer in Cook Park. It seemed like a natural choice.”

The 5K bike, hike or trike event begins Saturday at Cook Park at 10 a.m., with registration beginning at 9 a.m.

For more information on the Northwest Sarcoma Foundation and the walk, visit http://www.nwsarcoma.org.