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June 4, 2010 (Cleveland, OH) - First-grader Gavin Suesse of Brook Park holds the ball during the “Kick It for Gavin” tournament at Big Creek Elementary School. The sun beaming down on the baseball diamond Friday at Big Creek Elementary School couldn’t out-shine Gavin Suesse’s bright smile.
He was happy to be there with his fellow first-graders, competing in a kickball tournament named in his honor. After being diagnosed with leukemia at age 2 1/2, followed by 3 1/2 years of chemotherapy, the first-grader is in remission.
He is the son of Kevin and Bethel Suesse of Brook Park.
“He is doing very well. He is getting his energy back, and is back to normal, just being a kid again,” Bethel said.
That was a good thing, since Friday was a day for high energy. The school held the “Kick It for Gavin” tournament to raise money for pediatric cancer research. The all-day tournament saw classrooms facing off to see who would be the grade-level winner.
Kick-It for Cancer was started by a 9-year-old from Chagrin Falls who wanted to turn his favorite sport — kickball — into a fundraiser for a friend with cancer. Now it is an offshoot of Faces of Hope, which takes photos of children with cancer.
“We were getting pictures done, and one day they called and asked if they could use Gavin to start this fundraiser,” Bethel Suesse said. “He was happy to do this. He knows what it’s like to go through it, so he is a good role model for them.”
Gavin’s teacher, April Rivera, took charge of the program in November and began devising ways to bring in money. The funds received go to the Children’s Tumor Foundation and CureSearch, Inc. to fund research at the Children’s Oncology Group.
The fundraising went on through the whole school year, including students selling bracelets at lunchtime, and teachers paying $5 to wear jeans on Mondays. Then came valentines for cancer in February, then caps for cancer about a month later, when children wore hats to school, then paid $1 for a star to honor or remember someone with cancer. A pasta dinner and raffle May 21 drew more than 300 participants.
The school goal was to bring in $5,000, but the final amount was nearly double that.
Then came Friday’s tournament. There was no fee to play, but the children could go to the Kick It website to donate if they wished.
The Middleburg Heights Fire Department helped out, including Assistant Chief John Desmarteau, who umpired some of the games, and fireman Jim Kennedy, who volunteered as pitcher.
April Rivera’s class lost to another first-grade class, but no one really cared. They had lots of fun, and plenty of sunshine, and Gavin.
“It’s been a really good day,” Rivera said.
- Susan Ketchum
Christine BorkEmail Christine(240) 235-2208