When Keegan McCarthy, now 16, was diagnosed with acute lymphocytic leukemia in January 2006, his family and friends rallied around him. Everyone in “Keegan’s Clan” wanted to support the St. Jude Catholic School fifth grader, his parents Kathy and Mike, and his 9-year-old sister Shannon. Little did Keegan’s Clan suspect that for more than 100 of them, including the family’s priest, helping would mean going bald.
Keegan’s uncle discovered St. Baldrick’s Foundation, a fundraising event in which volunteers shave their heads in solidarity with kids fighting cancer to spark donations. The foundation uses the money to fund childhood cancer research grants, including some to Riley Hospital.
The inaugural southside Indianapolis St. Baldrick’s event, with Keegan’s name on the T-shirts, raised $40,000. “I thought it was wonderful to see that everybody wanted to help out,” Kathy McCarthy recalls. Keegan attended and was able to shave what little hair was left on his head.
Further testing had shown his leukemia was Philadelphia chromosome positive, meaning Keegan had a specific chromosomal abnormality that reduced his odds for survival. His best chance was a bone marrow transplant from a family member; fortunately, Shannon was a perfect match. After undergoing chemotherapy and radiation at Riley Hospital, Keegan received his transplant on May 10, 2006.
Now a sophomore at Roncalli High School, Keegan keeps busy as a member of the tennis team and manager of the varsity basketball team. He still makes time, however, to raise money for cancer research. “I don’t want other kids to go through what I had to go through,” he says. In the fourth annual St. Baldrick’s event in 2009, Keegan himself raised $10,000 and followed it up with another $8,600 in 2010. Through the years the names of other kids from the southside of Indianapolis have been added to the event T-shirt, including his good friend Tyler Genneken, who lost his battle against cancer in November 2009. “These are the kids we’re fighting for, who represent all the kids,” Kathy says.
Kathy and Keegan have organized blood and bone marrow drives at their church, and Keegan’s Clan has joined the Light the Night Walk to benefit the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. Keegan has spoken about Riley Hospital on the radio and before a variety of groups. In 2007, the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis gave him a Power of Children Award for making a difference.
“Keegan has gained the respect of people around the United States through his journaling on his CaringBridge.org page,” says his aunt, Kathleen Haberthy. “He will be a champion in his own right as he continues to spread knowledge to others in high school and beyond.”
A Piece of Riley June 27, 2019
I am the Riley Wagon. I mean a lot of things to different people. I'm also a way for donors, like the Burr family, to give back to Riley Hospital for Children.×
Be the Star You Are May 22, 2019
Check out this behind the scenes look at the 2019 Riley Cancer Center Prom.×
Meet Rowan Breyts March 19, 2019
A baby dies in Indiana about every 14 hours. Rowan Breyts was not one of them. However, he came dangerously close.×
Christian's Research Story December 19, 2018
Learn how Riley research helped save Christian Daugherty's life.×
Kennedy's Story: How Family Support Helps December 19, 2018
Watch the Strayer Family's story about their Riley journey.×
Sheila and Jameson's Story December 19, 2018
Sheila Dolan shares how the donor-funded Riley Maternity and Newborn Health team saved her life, and her son’s life.×
Be the Hope NOW: The Campaign for Kids December 19, 2018
We have launched a $175 million campaign for Riley Hospital to save kids’ lives through three high-priority programs.×
Riley Leadership Message December 19, 2018
Hear from Riley leadership about supporting Be the Hope NOW: The Campaign for Kids.×
2018 Race for Riley October 8, 2018
Congratulations to Race for Riley on 22 years and nearly $4 million raised for the kids at Riley Hospital.×
Meet Hunter Schermerhorn September 27, 2018
A phone call from Hunter’s school nurse turned a life changing cancer diagnosis for the Schermerhorn family. See how Riley research is helping kids like Hunter and his family find the answers they desperately need.×