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Childhood friends remain in each other’s hearts forever. The excitement of playing, growing, and discovering new things together creates our most cherished memories. Carter Kettner and Ben Keaty were inseparable since they were in diapers. As next-door neighbors on their sleepy suburban block in Huntley, Illinois, the boys became kindred spirits. As preschoolers, Carter and Ben were constantly singing, watching movies, and riding around the neighborhood in pint-sized John Deere tractors.
When he was just five years old, Carter was diagnosed with an inoperable malignant brainstem glioma in February of 2009. Immediately, the Kettners’ friends, family and neighbors stepped up to support and care for Carter. Joe and Cinnamon Kettner, Carter’s parents, had peace of mind knowing that their loved ones (“Carter’s Crew”) provided for them during the next 15 months. Ben continued to be Carter’s right-hand man through his battle with cancer.
Carter was a riot. He was the pinnacle of love; he possessed astounding joy and humor with the depth of an old soul. Relishing each day, Carter opened his heart to the team of doctors and nurses who cared for him. He would chant, “cancer kiss my cooley!” (“Cooley” is Italian slang for rear-end) every time he went in for chemotherapy.
Pointing to his backside, Carter would dance around the pediatric oncology clinic and demand that cancer “kiss it.”
Ben remembers how much Carter loved wishes: special experiences that friends and family provided during his treatment. One morning, Ben woke up and went outside after he heard what sounded like hail.
He ran outside and realized that one of Carter’s wishes had come true: “Carter wanted it to rain gumballs! There was a team of people who made this happen. It rained gumballs all around Carter’s house.”
Along with candy precipitation, Carter also requested to throw the first pitch at a Cubs game and ride around in a police car. These moments provided Carter with a feeling of celebration for his life and hope for the future. Carter’s family cherishes these joyful memories of Carter and the community’s support of the Kettner family. At the end of Carter’s battle with cancer, he told his parents, “My wish is for everyone’s dream to come true.”
To honor Carter’s memory and spirit, Joe and Cinnamon Kettner started the organization Cancer Kiss My Cooley in 2010. The charity grants Kisses of Hope, which are special moments or experiences tailor made for kids battling pediatric brain tumors and their families.
He explains, “I want to raise money for other kids who have cancer. I want them to have wishes even if their parents can’t afford it. I want kids to feel how Carter felt.”
13.1 miles may be a lot for a soon-to-be sixth grader, but Ben is up for the challenge. Ben’s mom, Pam, says that he hopes to beat Joe’s half marathon time.
When Ben talks about training, he says, “Well, if I’m at the end, have a mile to go, and I am really tired, I think about Carter. The thought of him makes me run faster and keep going. Carter inspires me.”
Want to help families like Carter’s? Find a Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon near you and register today to Run ‘n’ Raise for the charity or cause that is closest to your heart and tell cancer to “kiss it.”
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