In 2009, at age 4, James Ammenhauser of was diagnosed with a rare childhood cancer, Wilm’s Tumor.
He required chemotherapy, radiation and surgery to remove the tumor and his right kidney. James, now 7, is cancer-free and his family describes him as a typical 7-year-old who loves playing sports and grilling with his dad.
Though James is cancer-free, the extended Ammenhauser family actively supports cancer research and Children’s Memorial Hospital.
The Fox Valley Kicker’s Club recently hosted a St. Baldrick’s event, where individuals shaved their head to raise money for childhood cancers. The Ammenhauser family is active in this club and embraced the fundraiser.
When Kicker’s Club members first suggested the fundraiser to James’ dad, Jim Ammenhauser, he said he was “game from the get go to help raise money for kid’s cancer.”
“Heck yeah,” he said, “We’ll bring the whole family and try to raise money.”
Chris Ammenhauser, James’ uncle, thought the event was a “great idea” and within a few minutes had decided he’d raise money and shave his head, having witnessed his nephew’s heartbreaking battle with cancer.
The event was “amazing,” Chris Ammenhauser said. “People were more than willing to open their wallets for a good cause, despite the recession and everyone’s financial issues.”
Jim Ammenhauser described it as the best fundraiser he’d attended.
“It was very touching and the attitude was tremendous…We’ll be there every year," he said.
Lindsay Moore, Chris Ammenhauser's girlfriend and Kicker’s Club member, estimated 100 people participated and $7,500 was raised.
“The Kicker’s Club is a little organization and it brought in that much money in a short period of time with minimal advertising. People wanted to give. It was incredible,” James’ aunt, Katie (Ammenhauser) Urso said.
Urso explained that James too shaved his head.
“It was amazing – he wanted to shave a healthy head of hair when just a few years ago he had no choice in the matter," she said. "All the cousins pitched in and took turns helping to shave James’ head.”
Only a licensed stylist can conduct the hair shaving at a St. Baldrick’s event, but Ammenhauser family members did assist with some shavings.
“I want to thank Fox Valley Kickers and St. Baldrick’s. The event touched a lot of people’s hearts,” Jim Ammenhauser said.
James is the middle child and his sister was a newborn when he was first diagnosed. Both parents worked full-time and it took the effort of the entire Ammenhauser family and friends to get through the ordeal, explained Moore.
When James was diagnosed and undergoing treatment, “it was heartbreaking but it brought our close family even closer together. We got together more and became a tighter family, which has continued,” said Chris Ammenhauser.
“When tragedy hits, it shows the strength of family and friends. I can’t thank them all enough – everyone was unbelievable through all of this….No words can describe the helplessness and numbness and shock of finding out your child has cancer,” Jim Ammenhauser said.
The Ammenhauser family and friends will participate in the Move for the Kids 5K Run/Walk on May 12 to celebrate the new opening of Children’s Memorial Hospital. All are welcome to join or donate to Team James R. Ammenhauser.
“Children’s saved James. It’s as simple as that. Everyone gave so much when James was sick,” Urso said.