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SALT LAKE CITY — The month of September is dedicated to national childhood cancer awareness and students at Skyline High found a way to honor their own Eagles families who have been impacted by childhood cancer.
In an effort to raise awareness for the cause, Skyline will host a "Gold Out" football game Friday night against Brighton.
Cancer is the leading cause of death by disease among children in the United States from birth to 19 years old; and approximately one in every 285 children in the country will receive a cancer diagnosis before they reach the age of 20, according to the American Childhood Cancer Organization, leaving families to adjust to a new lifestyle of continuous treatments or even mourn the loss of a child.
Steve Tate, the co-founder of the Hayes Tough Foundation, said "all stars aligned" while creating the idea of the themed game at Skyline.
Student body officer Dakota Wolf and her sister Oakley, who is on the cheer team, are two students at the school who have been directly impacted by childhood cancer. Their 13-year-old brother, Jackson, was diagnosed with Ewing's sarcoma, a tumor that can form in bone or soft tissue, right before his 11th birthday.
After nine long months, including six chemo treatments and an intense surgery of removing his humerus and replacing it with his fibula, Jackson was cancer free.
But although Jackson has been cancer free for two years now, the Wolf family still hurts while facing the unknown, but they find happiness in helping other families who have been impacted by cancer and through spreading awareness of childhood cancer.
Through collaboration between the Wolf and Tate families, the cheer team, the student body officers, Skyline's principal and the school's football coach, Skyline rallied together to show their support of childhood cancer by creating the Gold Out game.
"The fact that people will say, 'You want us to recognize these children and honor them for the sacrifices by wearing gold? Heck yeah!' Because what all of this means is we spread awareness, and it gets bigger and bigger and bigger," Dakota and Oakley's mother Dani Wolf told KSL.com. "I can't put into words how much it means when people step outside themselves to recognize that this is a real problem. It's growing. More kids are getting diagnosed with cancer."
The gold-themed game means a great deal to the Wolf family but also to sophomore varsity football player Bo Tate and his family.
In 2015, Bo's mother, Savanna, delivered triplets: Heath, Reese and Hayes. Before Hayes' first birthday, doctors discovered a tumor that took up one-third of his brain. He was diagnosed with an extremely rare form of cancer: choroid plexus carcinoma.
Following months of treatments, chemo, stem cell transplants and surgery, Hayes died; but his impact on the world is continuous through the foundation that was created in his name by his parents. The foundation seeks to fund research and support and connect families who have been affected by childhood cancer.
Over the three years since the foundation was founded, Hayes Tough has raised over $1 million and helped thousands of families.
"It's always been a goal just to make kids aware that there's so much more, so many bigger things out there than themselves, and understanding there's kids out there with bigger issues than what you're dealing with," Steve Tate told KSL.com.
"It's really a unique opportunity for these students to kind of think outside themselves for those other kids out there that are fighting cancer."
Throughout the entire month of September, the Skyline football team will be wearing gold socks during their games in honor of the month. The team also had the opportunity to help present a care package with the Hayes Tough Foundation Thursday night to the Fiefia family, whose 17-year-old son Afu is battling cancer and is unable to play football this year.
The act of wearing gold may seem so simple, but to families who have lived in the hospital, lived through treatments and have experienced the effects of cancer, the simple act means the world. The gold represents the worth of a child being more than gold, and seeing gold is a reminder to these families how precious a child's life is.
"I guarantee there are going to be moms, dads, kids, teenagers, sitting in the hospital room all by themselves, struggling, seeing posts about a Gold Out and feeling like they're not alone and that somebody cares," Dani Wolf said. "It will mean everything to them because they don't have the strength to do anything else but fight for their child's life right now.
"A Gold Out, gold ribbons, gold stars — it's all symbolizing that we recognize there is not a price on our child's life; they are of infinite worth. We can't put a price on that, they are more precious than gold."