Ashtyn Brown loves sports, especially golf. A former member of the state-ranked Richmond High School girls’ golf team, she earned an athletic scholarship to Ball State University. While the 18-year-old senior looks forward to her college career, she also looks back to acknowledge other champions who shared her long, tough journey.
Ashtyn has fought acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) twice. She was first diagnosed in July 1999 and again three years later. In both cases, her treatment at Riley Hospital involved two-and-a-half years of chemotherapy, plus radiation after her relapse. A life-threatening fungal infection prevented Ashtyn from undergoing a bone marrow or stem cell transplant, although many matches were found. A trial medication proved to be a miracle drug that helped her daughter overcome daunting odds, says Kerri Brown.
“After Ashtyn was diagnosed with leukemia, we had the opportunity to meet many champions along our road to a cancer-free life,” Kerri adds. The Brown family found them first in their community; Ashtyn’s father Steve is a firefighter, and the Richmond Fire Department and town rallied behind them. A run/walk event called Ashtyn’s Fire Run raised $40,000 toward her medical expenses and launched the Dalmatian Foundation to help the families of other critically ill and injured children.
Chad Bolser, Richmond High School athletic director, remembers being at Ashtyn’s Fire Run. He took away an image of “a young, weakened girl literally fighting for her life.” But he later came to know Ashtyn as a gifted swimmer, golfer and “a person of incredible character.”
Ashtyn never forgets the other champions in her life-the staff at Riley Hospital, especially the late Dr. Jeffrey Goldman, and other Riley kids who became her close friends, some of whom lost their own battles against leukemia. “She is who she is because of the people who have crossed her path,” her mother says.
For example, when she’s on the links for Ball State, Ashtyn carries the spirit of another BSU golfer from Richmond, Justin Cross. Justin was like a big brother to Ashtyn and followed a similar path that included relapsing with ALL. Before he passed away, he gave her his leather scorecard holder with his name on it which she uses in competition.
“She has the daunting responsibility of carrying the torch for those who did not win their fight against cancer,” says Dana Shank, the mother of Ashtyn’s friend Alexa, who passed away in September 2006 at age 10. “Ashtyn, her family and community embody everything that defines a Riley Champion.”
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