Kicking with a Cause

Junior+Brad+Larson+prepares+to+kick+a+PAT+during+the+game+against+Keller+Timber+Creek%2C+Sept.+6.+He+has+11+points+so+far+this+season.+This+is+his+first+year+on+varsity.+%22Don%27t+give+up%2C%22+Larson+said.+%22There%27s+always+hope.%22
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Kicking with a Cause

Junior Brad Larson prepares to kick a PAT during the game against Keller Timber Creek, Sept. 6. He has 11 points so far this season. This is his first year on varsity.

Junior Brad Larson prepares to kick a PAT during the game against Keller Timber Creek, Sept. 6. He has 11 points so far this season. This is his first year on varsity. "Don't give up," Larson said. "There's always hope."

Ana Arredondo

Junior Brad Larson prepares to kick a PAT during the game against Keller Timber Creek, Sept. 6. He has 11 points so far this season. This is his first year on varsity. "Don't give up," Larson said. "There's always hope."

Ana Arredondo

Ana Arredondo

Junior Brad Larson prepares to kick a PAT during the game against Keller Timber Creek, Sept. 6. He has 11 points so far this season. This is his first year on varsity. "Don't give up," Larson said. "There's always hope."

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Childhood cancer survivor uses football to raise money

He was just 10 weeks old, and varsity kicker Brad Larson was back in the hospital, battling acute megakaryoblastic leukemia (M7 AML). After three rounds of chemotherapy and no progression, Larson was given a 20 percent chance of survival.

Larson has been cancer-free for 16 years and is using his story and passion for football to raise money for childhood cancer charities.

“I was in the hospital for 141 days straight, even through Christmas,” Larson said. “My dad was working night shifts and going to school during the day, trying to get a degree. My mom was the only one who could support me and be there for me. She prayed every night.”

Brad’s mom Stacey Larson became aware that something was wrong with her son when he got a nose bleed just six weeks after birth. 

“It was kind of alarming,” Stacey Larson said. “The doctors wrote it off, but the next week I noticed he wasn’t eating as well and was sleeping even more. He started to look pale, and I noticed bruising. We had to drive to change hospitals for one hour, and we were scared to have him in the car that long. That’s how sick he was.”

While Larson’s dad came to the hospital when he could, he also had to take care of Katie, Brad’s 1 1/2-year-old sister at the time.

“There’s really nothing that can prepare you for that,” Stacey Larson said. “Brad’s sister had a hard time with it because I was away from her so much. For 17 weeks, I slept in the hospital every night because he was there. When they’re that little, you can’t just leave them.”

While in the hospital, nurses would bring in people who have survived similar illnesses as current patients. Mrs. Larson recalls meeting with a mother of a child who also had AML.

“I would see other families have visitors, and we never did,” Stacey Larson said. “It was because, usually, the outcome wasn’t very favorable. Finally, they had one child, and I was able to talk to his mother. She had told me ‘(Brad’s) not going to be your athlete. He’s probably going to struggle in school. He’s going to have growth and developmental issues.’ So, to see what Bradley does, it’s kind of unique.”

At 6 months old, Larson’s health started to improve, and he was able to leave the hospital. 

“Once a month, I’d go in and get checkups,” Larson said. “Everything was going good. Then I’d go in every six months, and now I go into the hospital every summer to get my heart scanned and my blood drawn.”

At age 3, Larson became interested in sports. Growing up in Kentucky, soccer was his main sport. But after moving to Texas, where football is prevalent, he decided to try it. 

“I played receiver and was just kicking as a side thing,” Larson said. “Then I met Cade York. He was an LSU (Louisiana State University) commit. He saw that I could kick, based off my soccer background, and told me I had a lot of potential for it. Learning from him, being one of the best kickers in high school football at the time, it got me to be a better player. I was like ‘this can get me somewhere. I can kick with a cause.’”

If I kick a field goal, it’s not just three points on the board, its an amount of money for cancer.”

— Brad Larson

Larson began to attend kicking camps to improve his skills, including a Texas Tech Football Camp where he was awarded best kicker with the best accuracy out of all participants. 

“A camp called Kohl’s Kicking Camp promotes this fundraiser,” Larson said. “I thought this would be great for me to do throughout my season and donate to cancer because I can relate to that and I know how much kids with cancer need that.”

The fundraiser, named “Kick it with Brad Larson,” launched Aug. 31, the day after his first varsity game.

“You can go on to the website and either donate a certain amount or you can pledge a dollar amount for each point I score,” Larson said. “It adds up to a certain number, and all of that money goes to cancer.”

Varsity football special teams coach Coby Richards said Larson brings consistency to the team, and the kicker is trusted by his staff and teammates.

“I love that Brad is taking it upon himself to try to do something to cause positive change,” Richards said. “The more awareness that he can bring to childhood cancer, the better the results will be for all that are impacted. Right now, we are looking at other ways that we can bring awareness and attention to his fundraising efforts.”

So far this season, Larson has 11 points, and his goal is 60. The fundraiser will continue up until Dec. 1. 

“I hope people see that there’s a bigger cause in what I’m trying to do, rather than just get people to follow my games,” Larson said. “If I kick a field goal, it’s not just three points on the board. It’s an amount of money for cancer.”

Larson said he hopes the take away from his story is to not just focus on yourself, but to also focus on bigger aspects of life and help others. 

“His dad and I are proud of him for everything,” Stacey Larson said. “Not just that he’s doing well and playing football, but because of who he is and what he’s accomplished. The fact that he’s so excited about doing this and raising money for other people is pretty special.”

Larson also hopes to inspire other young kids with cancer. After being contacted by a young boy in the community who has also survived from cancer, Larson invited him to join the team on the bus ride to the stadium and stand on the sidelines with them at their previous game, Sept. 6.

“Don’t give up,” Larson said. “There’s always hope. Don’t let it phase you, because you can still live an amazing life.”

To donate to the fundraiser, visit https://www.alexslemonade.org/mypage/1862420