Real superheroes don’t fly, wear capes or have x-ray vision. In fact, they can be found right here in our community — ordinary people facing extraordinary circumstances.
Five-year-old Brodie Curtis and four-year-old Ridge Riley fit the bill. Both boys have been diagnosed with brain tumors and are being treated at Duke Children’s Hospital. They met during chemotherapy and became fast friends. They were both diagnosed around age two, and have endured nearly two years of treatment.
“It is a part of their everyday life, yet they have a bright outlook,” says Jessica Curtis, Brodie’s mother.
Now, the boys, along with their families, are participating in the Starry Night N.C. Triangle 5K to raise money for research and to support pediatric brain tumor patients. Thirteen children a day are diagnosed with brain tumors across the country. It is the deadliest, and one of the most underfunded cancers when it comes to research. The boys’ team is naturally called “Team Superheroes.”
“I have always called him my Superman,” says Hannah Riley, Ridge’s mother. “Through his journey, he’s taught me to smile. He helped me to know it was OK to laugh, smile and have fun through the crisis, and this is a crisis.”
“They show us every day how they face their illness without fear, how they keep going with smiles and laughter,” Jessica says. “We never thought it would affect our family. But when it does, it opens your eyes. We’ll do anything to promote awareness and find a cure.”
Jessica tells me the boys both know they have brain tumors, and what they are the most upset about is constantly getting “poked.” They understand that the goal of the 5K is to raise money so that fewer children will have to get poked. So far, they have more than 30 people on their team and are hoping to raise well over $1,000.
“There is not a cure for Ridge’s tumor. It will always be there. It’s a lifelong journey. I want to continue to see the research funded. I want to help my son; I want to help other children who are diagnosed with brain tumors,” Hannah says.
And, of course, on the day of the event, there will be costumes involved. Brodie intends to go as the Incredible Hulk, and Ridge will be his favorite superhero, Superman. Regardless of their costumes, or whether or not they can fly, these little guys define superheroes in my book.
The Starry Night N.C. Triangle 5K Sept. 30 at Dorothea Dix Park in Raleigh. It is hosted by the Pediatric Brain Tumor Association. The event’s website has more information.