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WCMS fundraiser fights against childhood cancer
Pie - balloons - Marsha Riggs.jpg
WCMS teacher Marsha Riggs prepares to launch balloons into the air during the Going Gold for Childhood Cancer event on Tuesday at Nunley Stadium. - photo by Chris Simones

Warren County Middle School held its seventh annual Going Gold for Childhood Cancer event Tuesday night prior to the WCMS Pioneers football game vs. Coffee County.

This year, the event honored A.J. Dodson, an eighth-grader who was diagnosed with T-cell lymphoma and T-cell leukemia in March.

A.J.’s symptoms originally led doctors to believe she had strep throat, but a CT scan of her throat and chest revealed a tumor.

A.J. was transported from River Park to Centennial where she underwent three lumbar punctures, five chemo treatments, four radiation treatments, two chest tubes, and two bone marrow biopsies during her 40-day stay.

“A.J. has been feeling better. Her strength isn’t all the way up and she has leg pain from where her leg muscles are weakened,” said her mother Stephanie Dodson. “Besides that, she’s in good spirits and loves to get out of the house as much as possible.”

Since coming home in May, A.J. has been hospitalized twice, once for a weekend and once for 10 days. A.J. takes physical therapy 3-4 times a week for an hour each session.

“A.J. has another marrow biopsy and PET scan in ten days to see if she’s still in remission,” Dodson said. “If she’s still in remission then we’ll start heading toward a bone marrow transplant.”

The Going Gold for Cancer Awareness event started in 2014 when sixth-grade student Chloe Williamson was undergoing treatment and remarked that everyone goes pink for breast cancer but no one goes pink for childhood cancer.

“Leslie Buchanan was a cheer mom at the time and asked if we could go gold for her,” said WCHS Pioneer Pride Guard director Marsha Riggs. “Each year since then we come together to raise money and bring awareness to all of the amazing children who are fighting, or who have fought cancer.”

The year’s event raised over $1,400 from gold links middle school students purchased for 25 cents each and money collected at the event by passing around a gold helmet. The stadium’s railing and fences were festooned with the gold links the students bought.

Gold balloons were released after the announcer read the names of 30 students from the community who have battled childhood cancer. All-O-K’sions provide the balloons.

“Most years we also sell T-shirts, have a mini-carnival, and sell bracelets too,” said Riggs. “Due to the crazy that is 2020 we had to scale it back this year to make it more manageable.”

The Coffee County cheerleading squad brought toys to donate to Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital in honor of Going Gold night.

“Over the span of A.J.’s illness we have had such a wonderful blessing of people, family, and friends who have showed such love and support,” said Stephanie. “Especially her best friends Mia Henry and Brinlee Vincent who have been with her every step of the way. We want to let everyone know we appreciate everything greatly. Warren County has an amazing support group. Thank you to everyone.”