Written by: Scott Allegrini
When I was 10 years old one of my favorite movies was Red Dawn. Not the awful 2012 remake! The 1984 version, starring Patrick Swayze, C. Thomas Howell and “tiger blood” himself, Charlie Sheen. If you haven’t seen THAT Red Dawn (shame on you)–then here is the Cliff’s notes version.
Picture it: Russia and Cuba invade the United States, and a group of ragtag high school kids escape the initial invasion, run into the mountains where they begin to fight back and defend their homeland.
As an impressionable ten year old, the movie taught me that sometimes, no matter what the odds, you have stand up for what you love. Now when I was ten, the fact that a movie boasting themes of friendship, courage and resolve inspired me more than Space Invaders was really nothing short of a miracle. To be honest, most of my ten year old days consisted of Atari, Duran Duran and playing football with my best friend down the street.
Now 30 years later, imagine my surprise to find a local ten year old who lives those “themes” without the benefit of a movie,in a culture where Atari has become Call of Duty! Like I was, Junior is a normal 10 year old boy… in most ways. He likes video games, hanging out with his friends, and being rowdy! But he has a passion for wrestling competitively, both in state and national tournaments. Since he could barely walk, he has been wrestling and has blossomed into quite the athlete. He spends hours per week at practice, traveling to tournaments on the weekends and all the while he earns good grades.
The only thing that is bigger than Junior’s wrestling skills is his heart, which he wears on his sleeve.After matches he spends most of the time hugging and congratulating his opponents and other fellow wrestlers. You see, to Junior, wrestling is less about the competition and more about the friendship.
His heart for friendship is even stronger off the mat, and for a very personal reason. On October 10, 2001, Junior’s Aunt Nikki began a fight of her own, when she was diagnosed with cancer. At only 16 years old, Nikki lived the courage and resolve that she modeled for Junior even before he was born. With family support, good doctors and outstanding medical treatment at St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital, Nikki’s cancer went into remission in August of 2002. Since Junior first hit the mat and started to wrestle, his aunt has been one of Junior’s biggest supporters and a constant fixture at Junior’s matches. Through this, Junior and his Aunt have developed a special bond, , like Patrick Swayze’s character in Red Dawn, Junior has something, inspired by his Aunt Nikki, for which he wants to stand up and fight.
This year Junior decided that he wanted to cement that bond even further by entering a wrestling tournament in New Jersey called the Pin Cancer Tournament. The tournament’s tag line is “the world’s toughest sport is taking on the world’s toughest opponent” and all of the tournament fees and the money that the wrestlers raise goes to help fight cancer in all its forms. Junior wanted to wrestle in this tournament to help support the fight against cancer and of course, to pin some opponents. But, he also wanted to go a step further and honor his biggest fan and support his Aunt Nikki. So, Junior decided to have a singlet specially designed that would honor her and her victory over cancer. With the help of his family, his aunt’s patient ID and her picture during treatment became the highlight of his singlet. While he wrestles in the tournament, his aunt’s fight will be inspiring him to compete against his opponent, and her victory will be inspiring his heart and humble spirit. When I asked why he wanted to wrestle for his aunt he said,
” Because she is always there to support me and even though I was not alive when she was sick I want her to know I support her and I love her a lot….oh and it’s really sad that she had to be sick.”
Needless to say, when Nikki learned of Junior’s efforts to honor her, she was so moved and proud of Junior that she that she wanted to support him even more. So, she started a go fund me page to help raise money for Junior’s completion, with a goal of $800 to present to St. Jude’s Children’s hospital that was instrumental in helping her win her battle with cancer. Together, and just like in Red Dawn, both are working for the cause and for someone they love.
In all honestly, we don’t need a movie to teach us friendship, courage and resolve…We can look to the example of a local ten year old whose maturity and passion teaches us all importance of looking beyond yourself. To Junior and his Aunt Nikki, this effort is so much more important than just a wrestling tournament. Everyone has fought a battle with cancer, whether their own personal battle or the battle of a loved one or friend. We are all affected by the fight, in one way or another. Visit Pin Cancer, to see how you can help Junior honor his Aunt’s taking cancer down for the count, and help hundreds of suffering children get the win.