Conversationalist. Sports enthusiast. Big brother. Wrestling buddy. These are the words that family and friends use to describe 8-year-old Parker Cowherd. His parents – and the staff of the hemotology and oncology center at the Levine Children’s Hospital – have another word to describe him: resilient. After two years of testing and chemotherapy treatments to stop an inoperable tumor from growing on his spine, he continues to fight oligodendroglioma.
“We know his journey isn’t over, but we know he’ll get a break in treatment for the summer,” Parker’s mother Allison Cowherd said. He just finished his last cycle of chemotherapy after five months on a new treatment, and has had 10 cycles of chemo since last June.
Through it all, Allison, her husband, Jon, and their sons Parker (8) and Owen (5) have held strong to their family motto: Keep faith, keep hope, keep together. And, through their new foundation, they keep “pounding for Parker.”
They founded Pounding for Parker, a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization, to raise awareness of pediatric cancer and raise funding for cancer research. Its name alludes to the Carolina Panthers football team’s mantra, “keep pounding,” and that spirit of perseverance resonates with the family (and, the Panthers are Parker’s favorite team)
The foundation has been a project nearly two years in the making. When Parker was diagnosed in 2015, the Cowherds knew very little about childhood cancer.
“I didn’t know any children that had cancer,” Allison said, “but it affects a lot more people than you would think.” Brain tumors are the most common cancer occurring among children ages 0-14, and the leading cause of cancer-related deaths in children age 0-14, she said.
“So little funding is going to pediatric cancer research – only 4 percent of the National Institute of Health’s budget goes to pediatric cancer research,” Allison said. “It just seems like there would be a lot more by now.”
For example, the medications Parker is on are more than 20 years old, she said, and the toxic chemicals can affect childhood cancer survivors well into their adult years – they are more prone to heart disease, lung issues, and secondary cancers like leukemia, she said.
It’s that sort of information – about the disease, the treatment, and the need for funding – that the Cowherds hope to share through Pounding for Parker community education and events, and they’re gearing up for their first event June 4-5.
The 2-day event includes a kickoff celebration from 4:30-8 p.m. Sunday, June 4 and a golf tournament beginning at 10 a.m. Monday, June 5. Sunday’s festival is in the Kadi Fit studio, 19725 Oak St., and the surrounding Oak Street Mill parking lot area. It is family-friendly, with food trucks, arts and crafts, games led by the Lake Norman YMCA, a Cornelius-Lemley firetruck, a silent auction, and live music. Registration for the golf tournament begins at 10 a.m. at Northstone Country Club, 15801 Northstone Drive, Huntersville, with a shotgun start at noon, followed by an awards dinner and silent auction.
All proceeds will go to fund pediatric research, particularly research on low-grade glioma tumors like the one Parker is battling.
Though Parker doesn’t love to be in the spotlight, he is excited for the launch event, Allison said. And she and her family are excited too: the more awareness and funding they can raise, the more hope they have, she said. “We want to find some type of cure that can take all of this away.”
Visit the Pounding for Parker website to learn ways you can donate time or money to support pediatric cancer research.
Christina is a local multimedia content producer and digital strategist. Formerly the editor of CorneliusNews.net, she is thrilled to work with the OTC team to once again help tell the ever-evolving Cornelius story. She lives nearby with her husband, Nate, and a small menagerie of 2- and 4-legged beasties.