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Race, walk will provide video games to young cancer patients

| Friday, Aug. 20, 2010

A walk or run through Irwin on Aug. 28 could help a child with cancer.

The Genre's Kids with Cancer Fund, a local charity to provide children battling cancer with portable video games for the hospital, is holding its inaugural Footsteps in Faith 5K and Fun Walk in downtown Irwin.

Genre Baker, 9, of North Huntingdon, was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia on Memorial Day in 2009, when he was 8 years old. He had to spend 14 days in the hospital. It was the first of many stays.

Acute lymphoblastic leukemia causes bone marrow to make too many lymphocytes, a type of white blood cell, causing them to become weak and unable to fight infection, according to the National Cancer Institute's Web site. The excess lymphocytes keep the body from producing healthy white or red blood cells and platelets, which leads to infection, anemia and hard-to-control bleeding.

Daunette Baker, Genre's mother, said her son relied heavily on his Nintendo DS hand-held video game system to pass the time. She said Genre wanted every child fighting cancer to have a hand-held video game system, which led the Baker family to form the Genre's Kids with Cancer Fund, to provide them with a Nintendo DS and games.

"Whenever I was in the hospital, I had to stay there for hours and there was nothing to do but play my (Nintendo) DS," Genre said. "I wanted other kids to be able to have one, too, if they didn't."

Daunette Baker said that Genre's cancer has gone into remission, but his battle with cancer and treatment is far from over.

"Pediatric acute lymphoblastic leukemia is the most treatable of all the childhood cancers, but requires the longest amount treatment," she said. "His treatment continues until September 2012, and it has to be in remission for five years without chemotherapy.

"They won't call him cancer-free until 2017."

When Jodi Fowler was told of Genre's diagnosis, she became a part of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society's Team in Training. The team offers participants training for marathons and half-marathons if they help in fundraising for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.

She dedicated her efforts to Genre's fight with cancer, and raised more than $5,000 for the society.

Her first event after joining Team in Training was the Nike Women's Half Marathon in San Francisco. Genre's picture adorned her shirt during the half-marathon.

The training inspired her to work with the Baker family and the Genre's Kids with Cancer Fund to start Footsteps in Faith.

The 5K race is timed with a computer chip. It begins and ends at Irwin Park. It features prizes for the top three overall finishers in various age categories, Fowler said.

The event includes the one-mile fun walk, which Fowler plotted to showcase the borough's businesses.

"It's a big loop through town," she said. "Irwin's a neat little town with a lot of shops, and we think that walkers should get to see what Irwin has to offer."

Although the race starts at 9 a.m., Daunette Baker said that Footsteps in Faith offers music, games and food all day. She hopes to attract more than just runners.

"We just want people to know about these children and what we do," she said.

Fowler said that Irwin's businesses and organizations, such as the Norwin Chamber of Commerce and the Irwin Business & Professionals Association, embraced and helped develop the event.

"It started as a fundraiser to benefit the Genre's Kids with Cancer Fund," Fowler said. "But it has also turned into a pretty nice community-day style event in the park."

Fowler said that she enjoys organizing events such as Footsteps in Faith and working with Genre's Kids with Cancer Fund. She said it is rewarding.

"I love doing this work and being able to help kids, but it's very bittersweet," Fowler said. "Because in the back of my head, I know that these kids have cancer and that their families are going through such a difficult time."

Additional Information:

'Footsteps in Faith'

Genre's Kids with Cancer Fund presents 'Footsteps in Faith,' a 5K race and 1-mile fun walk on Aug. 28 at Irwin Park.

Entry fees cost $25; $20 for kids for the race, which is timed by a race chip, and $10 for the walk and fun run. Children younger than 3 are free.

Registration is from 7 to 8 a.m., followed by the race at 9 a.m. Registration is available in advance by visiting .

Following the race, there is an award ceremony, live performances from southern rockers the Kiger Band and the Praise Band from Norwin Christian Church, food and children's activities, such as a jumping tent and a two-story inflatable slide.

The Chinese auction features several prize baskets, including a Penguins hockey basket with an autographed Mario Lemieux jersey and two game tickets, and video game baskets featuring X-box and Nintendo Wii.

Local businesses plan to offer shopping discounts and specials on race day.

Genre's Kids with Cancer Fund is a nonprofit organization created to assist families struggling through childhood cancer.

For more information, contact race director Jodi Fowler at , or visit .

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