'Littlest Tiger' makes a big impression
Fri, 04/24/2015 - 06:00
8-year-old Kyle Watson's battle with cancer inspires team
By Raymond L. Daye
Call him the “Littlest Tiger,” but he has every bit of courage and determination as any of his team mates.
Kyle Watson became an honorary member of the Marksville High School varsity baseball team last month. He was the starting pitcher for the game against the Bunkie Panthers on March 16 at the MHS diamond. The Tigers won that game, 10-7.
Kyle is only 8. He only threw one pitch. He is also battling cancer.
STEPScenla organized the “meet and greet” for Kyle, but it was the MHS baseball squad that made it an event to remember. They welcomed the young warrior into the huddle with the same spirit and camaraderie they show any of their older teammates.
STEPS stands for “Striving to Ensure Pediatric Survival.” The non-profit organization “endeavors to make a difference in the lives of children who have battled or are currently battling life-threatening or terminal illness through love, laughter and support,” STEPS member Nikki Dauzat said. STEPS raises funds to donate to a selected research-based organization and to aid seven children -- which the STEPS calls “heroes” -- in the Central Louisiana area each year.
“Our goals are to raise funds for the research of terminal and life-threatening childhood illness, raise awareness of all the different childhood illnesses that children are struggling with daily, and to promote kids helping kids,” she said.
A major STEPS event this year will be the 1st Annual Color Run Sept. 19 in downtown Marksville. Registration fees will be donated to St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital.
“All other funds raised, and donations received throughout the year, will go to our local heroes,” Dauzat added.
A family ‘s ordeal
Chasity Cole Watson, Kyle’s mother, is from the Ward 1 area. Although she, husband Kevin, Kyle and 12-year-old daughter Leeanna now live in Jonesville, she still considers Avoyelles Parish as home and spends as much time as possible visiting friends and family in the parish. That is why she was happy when she was told the Tigers would sponsor Kyle in the STEPS program.
Ms. Watson said Kyle was 7 when the special event with the Tigers occurred. He turned 8 on March 21.
He was diagnosed with cancer on Feb. 18, 2014.
Two surgeries, one in his brain and the other on his spine, were just part of the young Tiger’s ordeal.
“We had four months of chemo therapy and then 30 treatments of radiation,” Ms. Watson said. “We lived at St. Jude’s for seven months.”
She said they took Kyle to the doctor because he was complaining of headaches and nausea.
“The next thing we know, they say he has a tumor,” she said.
The family went to a hospital in Shreveport, and then to St. Jude’s in Memphis, Tenn.
On Dec. 3, doctors said Kyle is cancer-free. He will have another round of scans and tests next month just to be sure the cancer is in remission.
“I’m doing a lot better now,” Kyle said. “I feel great.”
He said the MHS event “was awesome. They made me feel special.”
He is looking forward to coming back to Marksville for the Color Run Sept. 19.
“We will be bringing some family with us,” Kyle added.
Ms. Watson said Kyle missed a lot of school due to his illness. He was able to finish school at St. Jude’s last year and started this year at St. Jude’s in-hospital school. He had been going to Jonesville Elementary -- where he is a 2nd grader -- for a few hours a day since he came home. His mother helped him with home-schooling for the rest of the day.
Kyle reached another milestone in his road to recovery on April 14 -- his first full day of school since being released from St. Jude’s.
“No parent should ever have to go through something like this,” Ms. Watson said. “We’ve had a lot of prayers. Our family and friends have been wonderful. We have been amazed at all the support we have received.”
Kyle said the two things he is looking forward to most this next year “is being healthy and being able to play with my friends.”
He credits “God and St. Jude’s” with the journey that began when he passed out from his nauseating headaches and has him returning to a normal life today.
Kyle’s special day
The STEPS-sponsored event featured Kyle and his family sharing their story of contending with childhood cancer, including the inspirational and encouraging news that he is one check-up away from being declared officially in remission from the tumor that had threatened his life not so long ago.
Kyle greeted each team member and participated in the pre-game coaching session to prepare him for the game ahead.
As the strains of the National Anthem faded, the roar of the crowd welcomed Kyle as he took the mound to start the game.
“To see the youth of our community dedicate their time and talent to spark hopes and dreams in the eyes of one little boy is a gift to be treasured for all,” STEPScenla member Nikki Dauzat said.
MHS Coach John Hill said the special event was as meaningful to the team as it was for Kyle.
“I received a call from a teacher at another school who knew me,” Hill said. “She asked if the baseball team would do this for Kyle because he really loves baseball and his mother is from here and attended Marksville High.”
Hill said he talked to the team and they were all for it.
“About two weeks before the event, they started asking me almost every day, ‘When’s the little guy coming,’” Hill said.
Hill said he had wanted Kyle to throw from about midway between the pitcher’s mound and home plate, “but he wanted to throw from the mound like the big boys.”
Hill said Kyle’s pitch “was a good throw, but came up a little short.”
The coach said Kyle enjoyed “hanging out with the team, throwing the ball around with the big guys. The older guys were just as excited as Kyle was.”
Hill said Kyle’s story, which he told over the PA system before the game, “really shone a light in the eyes of the guys on the team. It made them realize that life isn’t always easy and things like this can happen even when you’re young.”
Kyle will remember that day as the day he pitched in a varsity baseball game. He has a team jersey, cap and baseball autographed by all of the 2014-15 Tigers to commemorate the occasion.
Other members of the MHS team will also remember the day and will forever have the memory of a smiling child, excited by the team spirit, who has refused to give up.