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Lending a fist | Tae Kwon Do fundraiser helps family in face of grim diagnosis
For a youngster as active as Chad Williams, a few bumps and bruises were nothing new.
When he began complaining about soreness in his feet and back, his parents chalked it up to raucous games of flag football and basketball or one of his sessions at Kukki Tae Kwon Do, where he had already earned a black belt. They took him to see a doctor when he continued to display flu-like symptoms in the following weeks and months, but were told it was likely nothing more than a virus. But when his mother Cindy saw her usually exuberant son stop short of the kitchen one morning on his way to breakfast, she knew something was amiss.
"I just happened to put my hand on his leg to talk to him and he was so hot," she said. "They thought maybe he had strep throat or something else that wasn't showing other symptoms."
The visit included a blood draw, mostly precautionary they thought, and two days later revealed a possibility any parent would shudder at the thought of.
"They told us to pack a bag and get to Children's Hospital right away," Williams said. "They said Chad might have Leukemia."
For the Williams family, the following weeks and months were a blur of medical appointments, visits with specialists at Children's and coordinating schedules to fit in treatments that have already included spinal taps, a chest board and more needle pokes than any of them care to remember.
"I was in shock for a couple of months," Williams said. "I couldn't tell you a word they said."
As the initial impact of the news began to wane, the family centered its focus on the future and how they would continue to provide some semblance of normalcy for their young son, who now faced the grim realities of chemotherapy, time away from school and isolation from friends. When his blood counts climb high enough, Chad is able to swim at one of several community pools in the neighborhood where family friends have provided access. But the previous activities he loved so much: football, basketball, Tae Kwon Do, were only a distant memory.
As word spread in the community about Chad's diagnosis and obvious financial implications surrounding medical costs, friends began circulating cards at churches and places where the family had ties as a show of support and to raise any funds they could to assist the family. When Master Sanghoon Park and fellow Kukki Tae Kwon Do employee Mia Seul heard about the family's situation, they decided to help in the only way they knew how: breaking boards.
Park invited all of his own students as well as others in the community to come break a board at Kukki with proceeds raised going to help the Williams family with expenses. Nearly 50 students and their families showed up to break a board for a cause and Park said they were able to raise around $1,200 to donate.
"Our students and us, the relationship is like family," Seul said.
When Cindy Williams heard of the fundraiser, the emotion overcame her.
"I was in tears," she said. "It's just a beautiful gesture."
Other friends have worked with the local Eagles to host a spaghetti feed and Williams said the outpouring of support has been overwhelming. His Scout troop secured an iPad to use during long waits at appointments and Woodridge School set up an account for the family on Caring Bridge. There is also an account at Chase Bank to collect money to aid with medical costs. Still more friends have organized the neighborhood through a TakeThemAMeal.com, which has allowed those in the community to coordinate on providing meals. With a three-year chemotherapy treatment plan ahead of him, the family is taking nothing for granted.
"We're accepting all the well-wishes," Cindy said. "We don't know where we will be in three years."
Josh Suman: firstname.lastname@example.org; 425-453-5045