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Dream trip: KWMF to organize fundraiser to send sick Fenton teen to Colorado's Rocky Mountains

FENTON, Michigan —
Among the memories Doug Wyatt has of his daughter Katie is a final trip to Disney World, just weeks before she passed in June. Katie, 14, a Fenton eighth-grader who had renal cell carcinoma, felt well enough to go on all the rides she wanted, without the limitations her treatments usually imposed. Now, another Fenton teen battling cancer will take a trip of her own, thanks to a foundation set up in Katie Wyatt’s memory and a group of local businessmen who were inspired by her story.

Tamara Johnson, who graduated from Fenton High School in June and who turns 18 today and her family are the first recipients of a bequest from the Katie Wyatt Memorial Foundation, to help the family with expenses. Then, after Tamara spoke at a golf fundraiser for the foundation in July, three area businessmen pledged they would help raise money to send Tamara on her dream vacation to Colorado’s Rocky Mountains.

“I would wish the same thing for the Johnson family — they go on a trip and are able to experience memories that last a lifetime,” Doug Wyatt said. “That was what I was able to do with my daughter.” Tamara has had acute lymphoblastic leukemia, a cancer of the white blood cells, since she was 8 years old.

She is in her third round of chemotherapy — each 2 1/2 years long.
She was in remission for a little while but relapsed when she was 15.

Tamara's therapy horse, Boomer, during her weekly riding session
at Van and Sons Farm in Flushing.
“It’s hard, but I get used to it. It’s normal,” she said.

Through the years, Tamara’s bones have weakened from the chemo,
and she has difficulty walking for more than 15 minutes. For her high school
graduation ceremony in June, a friend pushed her wheelchair to receive her diploma.

She loves the outdoors and has always been a nature person. She and her family,
which includes dad Gregory, mom Sherry and sisters Julia,
Amanda and Donna, enjoy camping, hiking and fishing.

She also has been riding horses for about five years as a form
of therapy since it doesn’t put any stress on her feet.

Wyatt said he wanted the Johnson family to be the first family to benefit from the foundation because of the support they gave his family during Katie’s illness. Tamara’s sister, Julia, 14, was a good friend of Katie’s and her most frequent visitor.

Restaurateurs Adam Rose, who owns Bangkok Peppers Too in Fenton, and Alex Jovanovski and Jeff Johnson, co-owners of Alexander J’s Smokehouse in Mundy Township, are spearheading efforts to raise money for Tamara’s trip to the Rockies.

“When you’re fighting something like that, (going through) chemo, your mind is your biggest tool,” said Jeff Johnson, 45, of Oxford, who is not related to Tamara’s family. “Anybody can go on vacation, but this is a dual purpose.”

Rose said he hopes to raise $5,000 in 30 days. The group’s first fundraising effort is Monday with a buffet, silent auction and giveaways.

“We stepped up to the plate and said ‘We’ll make your wish come true,” Rose said. “We wanted to show the support of our local community. We’re still strong.”

Gregory Johnson said he’s thankful that Tamara is getting another wish. When she was 8 years old, she went to Disney World on trip funded by an organization.

“It’s still kind of a surprise. It still hasn’t really sunk in yet,” Gregory Johnson said.

As part of her dying wish, Katie asked that the foundation help other local children with cancer and their families, as well as fund “wishes” through the Rainbow Connection. “She wanted to do for other children what was done for her,” Wyatt said.

On Wednesday the foundation will present the Rainbow Connection with a check for $7,000 to $9,000, which will grant wishes to two Michigan children, said Mary Ann Beltinck, the foundation’s treasurer, as well as the gift to Tamara’s family. For Julia, Tamara’s sister, the trip will be extra special, because Katie was her best friend.

“It means a lot that Katie wanted that,” Julia said. “Katie will be there and she’ll enjoy it with us.”

Monday, September 12, 2011

Tamara Johnson - 2011
Hosted at Alexander J's Steakhouse (Grand Blanc) by Alex Jovanovski and Jeff Johnson, co-owners in cooperation with Bangkok Peppers Owner, Adam Rose will put on a fundraiser in Katie's name to support a local Fenton Child with Cancer. Monday, September 12th during Monday Night Football broadcasted on the big screens!

Tamara Johnson has been battling acute lymphoblastic leukemia — a cancer she’s battled three separate times since she was eight and is now in her 4th fight against it. Tamara was asked by Adam if she had a wish to do anything she wanted what would it be. She replied, "I always wanted to go Deep Sea Fishing or go to the Rocky Mountains with my family".

One of Katie's last wishes was that other children get to have the feeling of "being famous" and "feeling like a Rock Star", just like she did. Through the Katie Wyatt Memorial Foundation, set up in her memory, we get a chance to do just that.

“We are overwhelmed and can't say thank you enough,” said Greg Johnson, Tamara’s father.

What started with complaints of a sore neck when she was in the third grade led to the diagnosis that Tamara had leukemia, said Johnson. The leukemia came back after chemotherapy forced it into remission but she was again able to fight it back. A few months ago, the cancer came back yet again. Johnson said. “It’s a tough ride, but you have no choice. That’s kind of how Tamara looks at it.” Johnson said his daughter has undergone multiple surgeries throughout her battle, at one point spending 150 days hospitalized in the span of a year. She has even had to wear stretch casts on her legs to help support weakened bones.

“She’s so mature,” Johnson said. “She tells me ‘It is what it is and I have to deal with it.’ She’s very strong, very strong spirited.”

Please visit Katies-Game Facebook Community Page for more event information. We thank you in advance for your support of this cause that is so dear to all our hearts!

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