Reminder Assistant Editor
AGAWAM On May 21, 2007, Justin Kie-Burdick of Pittsfield was diagnosed with leukemia. Now a freshman at Berkshire Community College, Kie-Burdick is the face of Six Flags New England's "A Walk in the Park" to cure pediatric cancer.
Kie-Burdick is one of 12 pediatric cancer patients serving as ambassadors for the walks, each representing one of the 12 Six Flags theme parks nationwide. He will kick off the walk at Six Flags New England on Sept. 7.
"This is a chance to do something [to repay] for all the help that we've received," Kim Kie, Justin's mother, said in an interview with Reminder Publications. "We want to bring attention to pediatric cancer and try to raise awareness to help find a cure so that other families don't have to go through this."
Kie said her is on a two to three year course of weekly IV chemotherapy treatments at Baystate Medical Center.
"We've more or less tried to work it [treatment] into our life instead of letting it take over our life," she explained, adding that her son's prognosis is for a full recovery.
Kie said she is looking forward to the walk as a way to unite families experiencing similar hardships and also as a means of raising awareness and funds for fight to end all pediatric cancers.
Six Flags Friends, the philanthropic arm of Six Flags Inc., is working in conjunction with Cure Kids Cancer, a non-profit organization dedicated to raising funds for cancer treatment facilities in North America, organize the walk. The goal is to raise $200,000 from the walks nationwide to fund cancer research.
"The mission of Cure Kids Cancer is to assist with research to reach the day when there isn't any more cancer or [a day when] we have the medication or treatment to cure cancer," Jami Brinton, director of Cure Kids Cancer, said.
On Sept. 18, Brinton will mark her fourteenth year of life cancer free.. She explained that she was diagnosed with osteogenic sarcoma in her right leg and underwent 25 chemotherapy treatments and one surgery to remove a tumor the size of a softball and to ultimately save her leg.
"We [Cure Kids Cancer] realize that having cancer is not 'a walk in the park' but a child should be able to be alive and live [their] childhood as easily as 'a walk in the park,' without the worries of whether or not they will survive cancer," Brinton said.
She explained that Kie-Burdick and the 11 other ambassadors were chosen by Cure Kids Cancer to represent their theme parks because of their positive attitudes, strength and will to overcome their illnesses.
"They have such tremendous strength and courage and help me to understand the power [it takes] to survive," Brinton said. "And when a child has the will to survive there is not much that can stop them"
Jessica King, director of Six Flags Friends, said in addition to raising funds for a cure, the hope is that one day all children will be able to enjoy the parks healthy and cancer free.
She noted that thus far approximately $85,000 has been raised toward the $200,000 goal through online walker registration.
Thus far, walkers signed up at Six Flags New England have raised $3,867 toward the park's goal of $10,000.
Registration for the walk at Six Flags New England will begin at 7:30 a.m. The walk will begin at 8:30 a.m. and closing ceremonies will take place at 9:30 a.m.
Walker registration can also be conducted online by visiting www.walkintheparks.org.
For more information about Cure Kids Cancer go to www.curekidscancer.org.