Boys use online video to raise money for cancer fight

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NORTH LIBERTY, Iowa (AP) — Five North Central Junior High students say they are fed up with how cancer is hurting people they know.

These boys are using an online video to fight cancer and raise funds for two local families affected by the disease. They have a goal of raising $10,000 or more by the end of December.

The video, which calls on viewers to help with their efforts to "kill cancer" by donating dollars, depicts the boys sharing concerns about cancers attacking 15-year-old Austin Shroeder, who goes by the nickname "Flash," and 14-month-old Avery Flick, the daughter of a North Central teacher.

The Iowa City Press-Citizen reports ( ) viewers can donate to the families of Austin and Avery through the website, where the video is posted.

The boys — Kaleb Williams, Drake Woody, Carson Baldus, Sam Rechkemmer and Ben Vander Leest — worked together and said in an interview that they aimed to call attention to cancer issues through a video with funny and serious moments.

The boys, some of whom had Avery's mom as a teacher and knew Austin through sports, said they worked with mentor Ben Tweedt and were motivated to start the fundraiser by a desire to help others.

Vander Leest said the fundraiser took off quickly after they posted the video at the end of November. He said many people, including his relatives who live outside Iowa, have been sharing it and creating a "chain reaction."

Woody said they're collecting more and more donations every day through the initiative.

"I'm just thankful that the families are getting all this money for their children," Woody said.

Craig Schroeder, Austin's father, said he was amazed by the boys' creativity and initiative after he and his wife, Stacy Schroeder, first viewed the video.

He said the video brought Stacy to tears, and the whole process of watching the fundraiser unfold has been unbelievable.

"We're so humbled and grateful and thankful," Craig said.

Craig said Austin, who had a bone marrow transplant in July, was doing well until around Halloween when he relapsed and the cancer in his body spread. He said Austin is working toward remission so he can have another bone marrow transplant.

Austin has been taking high school courses online since May rather than attending school at West High because of his medical condition.

Craig said Austin's nickname, "Flash," originated after a relay race at Van Allen Elementary in which Austin beat the fastest kid at school. He said he's also coached Austin at baseball, basketball and football.

Craig and Stacy said money from the fundraiser will be extremely helpful when it comes to covering costs such as parking, food and prescriptions.

"It means a lot," Stacy said.

Tweedt said the idea for the fundraiser came about through a church youth group activity. Tweedt said he suggested they make the video after the boys repeatedly mentioned their concerns about Austin and Avery.

"They really wanted to help," he said.

Tweedt added the process of developing the fundraiser involved laughter as well as reflection on their efforts to help the families and "give them hope."

Heidi Flick, Avery's mom, said it's overwhelming to know so many people are supporting her family.

She said Avery, who has a tumor in her abdominal area, has been responding well to the treatments she's receiving.

"Overall, we've seen an improvement," she said.

Flick, who is taking time away from her job at North Central to care for Avery, said money from the fundraiser will help her family in "so many ways," including covering the costs of hospital food, parking and medical expenses.

Flick said although she knew about the video before it was finished, she was overwhelmed by the boys' creativity and thoughtfulness when she saw it for the first time.

"It was so touching that 12- and 13-year-old boys would think so selflessly about other people," she said.


Information from: Iowa City Press-Citizen,

This AP Member Exchange was shared by the Iowa City Press-Citizen.

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