Family, friends,classmates and teachers of Meadowdale High School freshman Brandi Byrd will be lacing up their walking shoes April 5 – all to fund research into the bone cancer that the 14-year-old has been battling since early February.
Brandi was diagnosed with Ewings Sarcoma, a bone cancer that typically affects adolescents and young adults. It is the second most common bone cancer in children, but it still accounts for only one percent of childhood cancers.
Registration is now open for the Dragonslayer Walk around Greenlake Park on April 5 benefitting the Northwest Sarcoma Foundation. The foundation supports sarcoma patients and their families and invests in sarcoma research.
Ronda Byrd, Brandi’s mom, found out about the Dragonslayer Walk after one of Brandi’s treatments at the Seattle Children’s Hospital, when someone at the hospital handed her a card telling her about it.
Ronda set up the team Beautiful Byrdie with an ambitious goal of $3,000 and shared it with her friends and on Facebook. They are already almost halfway to their goal and have one of the largest teams in the walk.
“Obviously, the more people that come, the better,” she said. “Just for her [Brandi] to know that all of these people are showing up for her and the walk and raising money for research. I think it makes all the difference.”
“It would be appreciated if people came out for the walk and/or donated because even though it is rare it does happen to kids in our community,” Ronda added in an email.
Beautiful Byrdie teammates have been sharing words of encouragement on the team’s sign-up page.
“Signing up to support Brandi Byrd, one of the bravest Lynndale Lion-Hearts to ever roam our jungle!” wrote Chris Kratz, office manager of Lynndale Elementary, where Brandi attended elementary school and where her younger brother Jake is a fifth grader. “She’s the GRRRRL who can beat this – and she’s got a pride of Lions believing in her!”
“I am Brandi’s counselor at Meadowdale High School,” added Brenda Lee. “All of Meadowdale is behind Brandi with lots of good thoughts and support!”
“I work at Meadowdale HS,” wrote Marlo Larson. “While I haven’t had a chance to get to know Brandi yet (her first year at the high school!), I do know her brother Nick as he graduated with my oldest daughter. Here to do whatever I can to support Brandi’s recovery and the Byrd family as they travel this difficult path.”
Brandi said she is excited about the support she has already received from her friends, family and previous teachers. One of Ronda’s friends will also be bringing two miniature horses to walk with the Beautiful Byrdie team. Whether Brandi can attend the walk depends on her treatment schedule, Ronda added.
Like many girls her age, Brandi is a self-proclaimed “fan girl” of the Hunger Games, with shirts, blankets and posters as proof. She is looking forward to seeing the movie “Divergent” as soon as she can. She likes listening to Macklemore. She has been playing the violin for four years and orchestra is her favorite subject in school.
Seattle Children’s Hospital is one of a handful of hospitals in the U.S. that has a team specialized in treating sarcoma patients. Ronda is thankful for this proximity because it means that Brandi can easily come home on days that she is not being treated.
Her weekly schedule varies depending on her treatment. Sometimes she is admitted in the hospital for a few days, or even up to two weeks. She spends most of her days at home resting in her bed and reading, her favorite hobby. She is currently reading the Percy Jackson series.
You can join Beautiful Byrdie or donate as a “virtual walker” here. It costs $24 for adults to register, $11 for children, $3 to be a “virtual walker,” and an additional $12 to purchase a T-shirt. At the Dragonslayer Walk’s home page, you can donate to the Sarcoma Foundation in honor of Brandi and find out more about how donations will be used.
— Story and photo by Natalie Covate