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Teenage cancer survivor to lead Six Flags 2010 Walk in the Park

Date: 5/26/2010

May 26, 2010

By Katelyn Gendron

Reminder Assistant Editor

AGAWAM - Shawn Cruzado isn't just any 16-year-old from Chicopee: he's a survivor.

The past eight months has been far from typical for this sophomore at Chicopee Academy. He's transformed from a healthy football player to testicular cancer patient at Baystate Children's Hospital to survivor, role model and ambassador to Six Flags New England's Walk in the Park in June.

"When I got picked to be ambassador I was like, 'Wow!' I was pretty shocked because I thought I was just another teen with cancer. I didn't think my story was actually that big," Cruzado said.

His story, contrarily, has inspired more than 1,000 people to follow his progress on Facebook and Twitter, as well as participate in a walk of his own at Szot Park in Chicopee earlier this month.

"I feel like I'm living a new life. I'm closer to my friends and family. I look at life differently," Cruzado said of life in remission. "I'm still Shawn [but] I've matured. I look at life as you can't take it for granted."

Funds raised by Cruzado and walkers will benefit Baystate Children's Hospital.

"What's unique about our walk is that all money raised here stays in Western Massachusetts," Melissa Pinkerton, director of Public Relations for Six Flags New England, said, adding that the park donated more than $50,000 to the hospital last year.

Dr. Satkiran Grewal, chief of Pediatric Hematology and Oncology at Baystate Children's Hospital, explained that funds received from the walk would be used to improve survivorship beyond the current 80 percent.

"There have been great advances in the treatment of children with cancer ... Some people think of cancer as this horrible diagnosis to have but with current approaches to [case] management, a vast majority of children with cancer can be cured as with some cases [like] Shawn," he said.

Grewal noted that patients at Baystate Children's Hospital participate in a national consortium, Children's Oncology Group, which allows them access to cutting edge therapies engineered nationwide.

Cruzado described his time at Baystate as "great," aside from the side effects of chemotherapy, which included hair loss, fatigue, nausea and missing about one month of school. He said he hopes his participation in the Walk in the Park would aid those in attendance and those receiving treatment at Baystate.

"I want to help and be in this for them," he added.

Those wishing to make a donation may do so online at or join Cruzado at the event on June 13. Walkers who raise a minimum of $50 will receive free admission to the park.

When asked about his plans for the future, Cruzado said he wants to raise as much money as possible for the walk, graduate high school and go on to play collegiate football. He hopes to play at Boston College, home to his idol, linebacker Mark Herzlich, an All-American who beat bone cancer in 2009 and will make his return to the field this year.