Brennan Simkins looks forward to the day when he drives long on the golf course. For now, as he builds his endurance and strength, Brennan sinks it on the putting green.
Brennan, 10, in remission for acute myeloid leukemia since February 2011, walked a little farther between each swing of the club during a golf round Friday, said his mother, Tara Simkins,. That’s just one step he makes as he presses on.
On Tuesday night, Brennan, a fifth-grade pupil at St. Mary on the Hill Catholic School, will stand on the football field for the coin toss before a middle school football game. He will be joined by William Chandler and Duncan Johnson, pediatric cancer survivors and students at Episcopal Day School, the team opposing St. Mary in the game.
Proceeds from the game will go toward the Press On to Cure Childhood Cancer Fund, an organization co-founded by Brennan’s family. The night will also kick off a month of events for September’s Childhood Cancer Awareness Month.
The monthlong initiative will rally around a special theme – whatever you play, play for Press On.
Tara Simkins said the theme was inspired by children battling cancer who, through all their pain, never give up their childlike spirit. In the hospital, they love Legos and video games. At home, they redefine favorite playtime activities.
“They play through it and don’t dwell on the what-ifs,” Simkins said. “We want to remind people that our ability to play is important in our lives and a gift. When you play, be grateful you can play and use your God-given talents.”
A highlight of the month is a weekend of golf games and tennis matches with a party and silent auction. That weekend, children will play in the inaugural Brennan Invitational Junior Golf Tournament, the brainchild of Brennan’s older brother, Nat.
Brennan was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia in January 2009. He received four bone marrow transplants and now focuses on keeping his immune system strong.
This summer, Brennan returned intermittently to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tenn., for low doses of chemotherapy. He was experiencing joint contractions, dry skin conditions and eye cataracts – side effects of radiation.
Brennan swam in the ocean for the first time in four years, attended a week at Camp Rainbow and filmed a commercial with actor Robin Williams for a St. Jude campaign.
He has returned to St. Mary as a full-time pupil and works out with a trainer three times a week.
The Press On fund has given more than $1 million to pediatric cancer research. In the fiscal year ending June 30, more than $500,000 was raised.
Simkins said the fund hopes to reach an additional $100,000 goal in September.
“When we saw the figures, we were amazed how many people have stood behind this whole idea and the dream of trying to find a cure for pediatric cancer in our lifetime,” she said.