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PHOTO CAPTION:  Andrew Mortimer, 7, Junction City, participates in a head-shaving event for the Saint Baldrick's Foundation April 27 at the Warrior Zone, Fort Riley, Kan. His younger brother, Brady, died from a rare childhood cancer.

May 10, 2013
By Calun Reece
Fort Riley Public Affairs

FORT RILEY, Kan. -- Head-shaving can be a way to show support in finding cures for childhood cancer.

Volunteers of the Saint Baldrick's Foundation hosted a head-shaving event April 27 at the Warrior Zone.

The foundation was created to raise awareness and funding to find cures for childhood cancer.

"We're shaving our heads, in solidarity, for kids that are going through chemo," said Shirley Ellington, event coordinator, Department of Quality management, Irwin Army Community Hospital.

Ellington is a volunteer for the Saint Baldrick's Foundation.

"More children are lost to cancer in the U.S. than any other disease -- in fact, more than many other childhood diseases combined," according to the Saint Baldrick's Foundation website. "Worldwide, a child is diagnosed every three minutes."

Volunteers at the event asked 200 people to shave their heads and pledge for childhood cancer research.

Several volunteers and participants have been affected personally by cancer.

"Losing a child to cancer is unimaginable to those who have never been through it," said Jason Mortimer, retired veteran, Junction City.

Jason and Katy Mortimer lost their 3-year-old son, Brady, to a rare cancer called, Atypical teratoid rhabdoid tumor, in August 2012.

Since losing their child, Jason, Katy and their son, Andrew, 7, Junction City, have been actively involved in creating awareness about childhood cancer.

The Family came out to the head-shaving event for Jason and Andrew to shave their heads in support of the organization and to honor Brady's memory.

Katy first took her son, Brady, to the doctor in January 2012, when he complained his head hurt, and he had eye pain.

"They passed it off as just a virus. They said just go home, there's nothing wrong with him," she said.

After still complaining of the same symptoms for a couple of months, Katy and Brady went back to the doctor. After more testing, doctors found a brain tumor the size of a grapefruit in his brain.

"As soon as they told us what was going on, I hit the floor, like the feeling I was under water," she said. "I couldn't believe it. I was in disbelief."

Brady and his mom were immediately rushed to Children's Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, Mo.

"All these years, I didn't even know about (the hospital) because my kids have never been sick," she said. "Two days later, he underwent an eight-hour-long brain tumor surgery, which was one of the worst days of my life; the beginning of his journey," she said.

After the surgery, the Family decided to take Brady to Saint Jude in Memphis.

By the time the Family arrived at Saint Jude, testing showed the tumor was at stage four and had spread, she said.

The hospital gave a less than 10-percent chance of his survival, but the Family continued to fight.

After several months of chemo and treatments, Brady died Aug. 4, 2012.

"The night before, I was outside playing with him until 5 or 6 (p.m.)," said his dad, Jason. "It was 12 hours later (that) he passed away at Saint Jude."

"In the short amount of months that we were there, he touched so many lives," Katy said. "He would walk down the halls and say, 'hi to everybody -- that's my friend,' and he was just so giving and sharing and gracious.

"He never got sick -- or if he did, he would just throw up and be like, 'OK, I'm ready to play,' and he'd stand up on his IV pole holding it, and we'd just wheel him around, and we'd go to the jukebox and dance to party rock."

Brady was just a happy-go-lucky baby, she said.

In an effort to help other children affected by cancer, the Mortimer Family decided to donate their son's brain for cancer research.

"Donating his brain is priceless because now we found out, recently, that his brain is actually doing top research at Saint Jude, trying to find a treatment or a cure for this kind of cancer," she said. "If somebody could live a month longer, then we've done our job. Know the symptoms about childhood cancer. The earlier it is caught, the better."

For more information about symptoms of childhood cancer, visit www.bechildcanceraware.org/child-cancer-info/child-cancer-symptoms/.

For more information about the Saint Baldrick's Foundation, visit www.stbaldricks.org/.

The Brady Mortimer Fund was started in his memory and provides Christmas and birthday gifts for children suffering with cancer. For more information, visit www.gofundme.com/Bucks-for-Brady.