GOOD CHEER

WCU squad finds inspiration in a child fighting cancer

By TONY HOLT

At 18 months old, Kase Powell was diagnosed with a tumor in his brain – a large mass that was pressing against his pituitary gland and stunting his growth. Days after he was diagnosed, surgery removed 95 percent of the tumor. It saved Kase’s life, but nothing is likely to spare him from having regular treatments and visits to the doctor. Based on classifications from the World Health Organization, Kase has a grade-two brain tumor, a malignant mass that grows slowly but persistently.

Cheerleading

Little Kase Powell has Kim Cherry-Beck ’01 (first row, second from right) and her squad cheering for him. Photo by Steven Notaras/News Journal

Kase is now 3, and his story of endurance has spread across the country. The family – parents Ken and Amy Powell and twin brother Knox – live in Palm Coast, Fla. While they have no other family in the area, they hear from supporters far and wide.

Towne & Reese, a jewelry line out of Charlotte, offers a “Kase Necklace,” a popular item. The necklace’s proceeds go toward the Kase Powell Fund. The design of the necklace includes a gray stone that signifies the color of brain tumor awareness and the metal represents community strength.

Kim Cherry-Beck ’01, coach of the Western Carolina University cheerleading team and a fan of the jewelry line, learned the story behind the necklace and shared it with her squad, who adopted the child as they prepared for their recent national competition. The team contributed to a can tab drive for the Ronald McDonald House organized by the Powells and sent the family a “Whee are cheering for you” care package that included signed posters, T-shirts, pompoms and, from the baseball team, signed baseballs and a batting helmet. (Cherry-Beck’s husband is assistant baseball coach Alan Beck ’04 MAEd ’06.) The Powells reciprocated by sending bracelets with Kase’s name on one side and the words “fight back” on the other, which the cheerleaders and baseball players wore for the remainder of their seasons.

“Obviously, he’s our team’s hero,” said Cherry-Beck. “He’s a fun-loving boy who’s fighting a hard battle. He’s so brave.”

In April, the team competed in the national Collegiate Cheer and Dance Championship in Daytona Beach, Fla., where Ken and Amy Powell brought Kase to the competition and he met his admirers face-to-face for the first time. “He took off hugging all of them,” his mother said.

The lobby was extremely noisy and filled with people, mostly college students who have proven abilities to show spirit. But the loudest screams that afternoon came from the Western Carolina cheerleaders when they first saw Kase. “I instantly got cold chills,” said WCU junior Logan Farnsworth. “I started tearing up when I saw him.… He was really sweet. He gave us hugs and he gave us high-fives…. He was shy, but you could tell he was so happy to see us.”

Reprinted in edited format with permission of The Daytona Beach News-Journal. Click here for the original story.