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Forever an inspiration: Dawson’s journey fueled community outreach, support

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By Phyllis McLaughlin, Special to The Spencer Magnet

For Dawson Moore, life was not measured by the number of years he lived, but more by the number of people whose lives he touched.

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At just 11 years old, Dawson died Thursday, April 4, from a rare brain cancer called Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma or DIPG. He had been diagnosed with the disease in July 2012, and began extensive radiation and chemotherapy to battle the tumor growing on his brain stem. Funeral services were 2 p.m. Tuesday at Hall-Taylor Funeral Home. (Please see Page 5 in today’s paper for a complete obituary.)
The Spencer County community rallied around Dawson and his parents, Melody and Todd, and his younger brother, Mason. Just two weeks after the diagnosis, the Spencer County Youth Baseball Association held a weekend-long benefit at Ray Jewell Memorial Park, raising more than $28,000 for the family in donations and entry fees for baseball and softball games, a corn hole tournament, basketball shootouts and even a concert featuring local musicians.
In September, the family was treated to a cruise in the Bahamas, a gift of the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
In December, he was named the grand marshal of the Christmas on Main Street parade.
On Feb. 19, a Facebook page – Do it for Dawson Moore – was launched in his honor. Within a month, his page had reached 1,000 “likes” and is now up to nearly 3,200.
And in March, more than 100 people gathered in front of the Moore home for a candlelight prayer vigil.
Tammy Owen of Creekside Florist and Gifts in Taylorsville said she attended last year’s fund-raiser, but only got to know Dawson recently after finding his Facebook page online.
“He always had a smile; he never seemed discouraged. … I wish I’d gotten to know him sooner,” she said Monday. “He was awesome. I can’t put it into words. I don’t want him to ever be forgotten. … I don’t think he ever knew how he touched people.”

The disease
DIPG tumors grow in the pons – the middle portion of the brain stem, which connects the cerebrum with the spinal cord. The brain stem controls all of the body’s vital organs and functions, including breathing and muscle control. The tumor grows in and around the nerves that run through the brain stem, which rules out surgery as an option.
According to DIPGRegistry.org, an international website for physicians based at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center in Cincinnati, Ohio, 10-15 percent of childhood brain tumors are diagnosed as DIPG – about 150-200 each year.
According to The Cure Starts Now Foundation, DIPG spares a patient’s cognitive abilities, but “slowly robs children of their motor functions, resulting in partial paralysis, loss of voice and sight, and finally ending with an inability to eat and breathe.”
Treatment is still experimental, and studies continue. But so far, radiation and chemotherapy have not done anything to significantly improve survival rates over the past 25 years, according to CCHMC. Most children diagnosed with this disease are between the ages of 5-10, and it remains the leading cause of death among children with brain cancer. Most DIPG patients die within a year of the diagnosis.
There are many websites and foundations dedicated to raising awareness and bringing attention to this disease. For more information, to volunteer or to find ways to donate, visit TheCureStartsNow.org, RiahsRainbow.org, ReflectionsOfGrace.org, or People Against Childhood Cancer at CureChildhoodCancer.org.

Make-A-Wish information
According to its national website, the Make-A-Wish Foundation fulfills wishes of all kinds to eligible children over age 2-1/2 and younger than 18 who have been diagnosed with a life-threatening medical condition, regardless of race, gender, creed, socio-economic or cultural background. Through its contacts, the organization can arrange unique trips, celebrity meetings and other special experiences that money simply cannot buy. Wishes are not intended to be a “last wish,” but an endorsement of life and a gift of hope.
The website, Wish.org, provides information about donating to the foundation or nominating a child, as well as volunteer opportunities that are available. The Foundation welcomes donations of gift cards and gift certificates to a variety of retailers. Gift cards from discount retailers, consumer electronics stores, department stores and shopping malls are used to grant wishes every day.
Additionally, The Make-A-Wish Foundation accepts donations of hotel loyalty points and frequent-flier miles. Each year, the foundation needs more than 2.5 billion miles, or 50,000 round-trip tickets, to grant wishes.
(Note: The IRS recognizes award points and miles as a gift or an award from the corporation to the individual. Therefore, points and Frequent Flier miles donated to charity are not considered tax deductible.)
Locally, there is a regional Make-A-Wish office at 1230 Liberty Bank Lane, Suite 300, Louisville, KY 40222. The website is MakeAWishKy.org.