Friday, October 31, 2014

Central Heights pulls together to aid former student with cancer

By DYLAN LYSEN, Herald Staff Writer | 3/21/2014

RICHMOND — When life gets tough for a member of the Central Heights family, the rest come together and look out for their own, Cortney Kinyon said.

“It’s kind of cliché, but we’re a family,” Kinyon said. “We do tend to take care of our own or try to help in any way that we can.”

RICHMOND — When life gets tough for a member of the Central Heights family, the rest come together and look out for their own, Cortney Kinyon said.

“It’s kind of cliché, but we’re a family,” Kinyon said. “We do tend to take care of our own or try to help in any way that we can.”

Kinyon, an English teacher at Central Heights High School, recently organized an ice cream social and bowl painting party to help raise funds for a former student and community member who was diagnosed with cancer. Kinyon said she and the Central Heights Key Club wanted to help her former student Jaron Leach, 23, who was diagnosed with cancer about a year ago. The Key Club played host to the ice cream social and sold ceramic bowls for donors to paint and have fun. Leach was unable to make the event, but that didn’t stop people from supporting him.

Rob Leach, Jaron Leach’s father, said his son was diagnosed with cancer about a year ago, and at the time it was a very treatable form of cancer. He said the doctors told Jaron Leach he had a 91 percent chance of beating the cancer.

But the cancer spread, and Leach’s situation grew worse. Originally dealing with a treatable form of testicular cancer, Jaron Leach now is treating cancer that has spread to his lungs and stomach. After several stints of chemotherapy treatment, Rob Leach said, they were running out of options. Jaron Leach had to travel to Indianapolis to get treatment, and they were even considering traveling to Mexico. Leach’s AFP levels, which are a tumor marker, have recently lowered and gave the family a little bit of hope and to keep on the regimen he now is on. Rob Leach said if the regimen doesn’t work this time, they will look into clinical trials to finally win the fight.

Jaron Leach, who sometimes goes by the nickname Bear, was able to travel back from Indiana from time to time to see his wife, Montana, and their two young daughters, who are 6 months old and 3.

The news of Leach’s cancer diagnosis broke Kinyon’s heart, she said. Leach was a student in her English class during his sophomore year of high school. Kinyon said she remembers his time in her class fondly, and others feel the same about him.

“He was ornery, but he was a sweet ornery,” Kinyon said. “He would do anything for you, but it was the good ornery that you enjoyed. You enjoyed him in class.”

Leach graduated from Central Heights in 2009, but remained visible to the school’s community, Kinyon said. With a younger brother, Sam Leach, still in high school and playing for the school’s basketball team, Rob Leach said he was still around to support his brother.

“He wouldn’t miss any games,” Rob Leach said.

Now it was time for the school to support him. Students and members of the community were asked to show support for Leach by purchasing and painting a bowl. The proceeds of the project would be donated to Leach to help him offset the expensive costs of his treatment. According to a Facebook page dedicated to his fight against cancer, “A Battle For Bear,” a pill-form chemotherapy treatment costs about $1,100 a week.

Kinyon said the idea came after she saw his story on the news in Kansas City. Having him as a student and seeing him struggle brought tears to her eyes, and she knew she had to help in some way, she said. As the teacher who sponsors the Central Heights Key Club, she brought the situation to her students who were fully on board to help the cause.

“It was painful enough for me to watch,” Kinyon said. “I thought we might as well do something at school.”

The group decided to organize the ice cream and bowl painting event because it was a change of pace for the types of events they’ve done before, Kinyon said. The change must have helped, she said, because just halfway through the event, the club already had sold 39 bowls for $10 each. Kinyon said that was more than any other event they had organized.

The rise in support is because so many wanted to help a member of the Central Heights family in a time of need, Kinyon said.

The support has been overwhelming and the family can’t thank those who have helped enough, Rob Leach said, adding that his son was thankful for all the help he’s received from Kinyon and Central Heights.

“They did an outstanding job supporting one of their students from years past,” Rob Leach said. “He’s very overwhelmed and appreciates the thought during this battle.”

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