TeamConnor Relay raises awareness of childhood cancer

Fundraiser benefits childhood cancer research in memory of 8-year-old Frisco boy

The TeamConnor Relay committee (from left) Julie Armstrong, Scarlett Luce, Donna Sheets (committe Co-chair), Elizabeth Collins (committee co-chair), Joy Cruse, Carla Morrison. Photos by David Alvey.

More than 100 supporters turned out Oct. 29 at Lone Star Ranch in Frisco for the TeamConnor Relay, which was run continuously from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Participants were encouraged to “run, walk, bike or hop” for at least one five-mile leg of the relay.

“Fighting cancer is like running a race,” explains Jennifer Bolton, executive director of the Dallas-based TeamConnor Cancer Foundation. “Both require persistence, stamina and perseverance. But, certainly in the case of childhood cancers, the patient is not running the race alone. TeamConnor is committed to helping childhood cancer patients finish well.”

After the relay concluded, participants as well as friends, family and supporters of TeamConnor gathered for food, music, prizes, and games. Sponsors of the event included Protection Systems, MISource, Subway, Wing Stop, Dr. Pepper/Snapple, Chick-Fil-A, and Chili’s.

“This was the inaugural year for the Texas TeamConnor Relay,” said Donna Sheets, chairperson of the event. “This event has been a huge success in Connecticut for the the TeamConnor Cancer Foundation, and we were very pleased with our first year in Texas. We have begun planning the 2012 Relay and will begin signing up participants and sponsors in January.”

 TeamConnor was founded in honor of Connor Cruse of Frisco, who was diagnosed with Stage IV neuroblastoma on May 15, 2005. When discovered, tumors were already around Connor’s spine, behind his heart, and there was a nine-centimeter mass in his abdomen. Cancer had spread to the bones in his legs, pelvis, ribs and shoulders. The prognosis was bleak. But Connor fought valiantly and always maintained a positive attitude while enduring more than 200 nights in the hospital, 14 surgeries, 40 blood transfusions, 25 rounds of chemo, two bone marrow transplants and countless painful procedures with visits to specialists in Dallas, Houston, Boston, New York and even Guatemala. While he ultimately lost his four-year cancer battle in 2009, Connor was a fighter to the very end. His motto was, “Be brave and believe in Jesus.”

Even as Connor fought for his life, his parents Tait and Joy Cruse were touched by how cancer affected other families they came in contact with during Connor’s treatments. They promised Connor they would do everything they could to keep other children from having to go through what Connor faced. So, the Cruses set up the TeamConnor Cancer Foundation in 2007 to help fund childhood cancer research.

“Cancer kills more children each year than cystic fibrosis, muscular dystrohy, asthma and AIDS combined,” said Joy Cruse. “Yet the National Cancer Institute allocates only three-percent of its budget to pediatric cancer. Someone has to stand up for these kids. Events like the TeamConnor Relay raise awareness and money to find a cure for childhood cancers.”

Over the past several years, TeamConnor has raised nearly $1 million for childhood cancer research. They have funded important research at hospitals and research facilities across the country, including M.D. Anderson, Sloan Kettering and the UCSF Medical Center in San Francisco. And the fight continues in honor of one brave little boy’s inspirational battle.

For more information, visit teamconnor.org.

Story and photos submitted by David Alvey.

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