To recognize childhood cancer awareness month, members of the Birmingham-based aTeam Ministries painted gold ribbons on the football field at Alexandria High School on Friday morning, in anticipation of the school’s homecoming game.
“It’s just getting our message out,” said Andy Thrower, founder of aTeam Ministries, a group committed to funding research for childhood cancer. “It’s just one of things we do to make people aware of childhood cancer.”
Thrower, whose son Anderson was diagnosed with cancer before his second birthday, said the awareness campaign for gold ribbon month started as a suggestion from a friend whose child died of cancer.
“He said we should get gold ribbons on the field at Jordan-Hare and Bryant-Denny,” said Tucker, referring to the football stadiums at Auburn University and University of Alabama. “I thought it was a great idea, but I said we should start smaller, and get some on high school fields.”
Alexandria High was the first school in the state to agree to get the ribbons painted on its field, although Ashville High School in St. Clair County was the first school to host the ribbons earlier this month.
“This community has really been affected by cancer the last few years,” said Frank Tucker, Alexandria High’s football coach. Tucker’s predecessor, Larry Ginn, died of cancer four years ago.
“I thought it was a good cause, and we want to support it,” Tucker said.
For Tina Thompson, the month has special significance. Her daughter, Alexandria High sophomore Summer Thompson, was diagnosed with leukemia when she was 8 years old.
“They told us she had four weeks to live,” Thompson said. “You never expect to take your child to the doctor and have them tell you she has cancer.”
Despite the diagnosis, Summer survived. Through their struggle, the Thompsons were able to reach out to other families whose lives were changed due to cancer, including meeting Thrower and his aTeam ministries.
“I think people don’t really know a lot about childhood cancer,” said Thompson, noting adult cancer treatments and research have more widespread support and funding. “I think it would blow people’s minds to know that 33 children are diagnosed every day with childhood cancer, and one-fourth don’t live five years past the diagnosis.”
Thrower said aTeam hopes to have its gold ribbons on the field at Jordan-Hare Stadium next year when Auburn hosts the high school football state championship games.
“But it isn’t just about getting it at Auburn and Alabama,” Thrower said. “It’s about awareness, and we’d like to get it to the NFL or Major League Baseball. They support breast cancer, why can’t we get our gold ribbons on the field?”
Summer said she’s going to speak at some of the lower league games scheduled at the field for Saturday morning, but Friday night, she was just going to the homecoming game as a fan.
“I normally paint my arms all up orange, but tonight I’ll have to look nice,” she said Friday. “Oxford is gold. So, I guess I’ll just have to look past that, too.”
Staff writer Brian Anderson: 256-235-3546. On Twitter @BAnderson_Star.