Devon Wooten, a brain and spine cancer survivor who turns 10 in October, gets a visit from the Razorbacks cheerleaders during the ROC Stars tailgate party.
Korey Heath, 12, and her dad, Michael, were excited about her first Razorbacks game and the completion of her upcoming final radiation treatment.
A special visit from the Razorbacks cheerleaders had most of the ROC Stars and their families calling the Hogs during the tailgate party.
Sept. 11, 2013 | While calling the Hogs is a simple luxury most Arkansas fans take for granted, 9-year-old Devon Wooten and his family relish any opportunity he gets to cheer the Razorbacks on to victory.
Fighting for a win on the football field quickly gains perspective when faced with fighting for your life. That’s a lesson the Wootens learned in November 2008 when Devon was diagnosed with a stage-2 ependymoma brain tumor.
Because of immense pressure the tumor was already putting on his brain, emergency surgery was performed right away. Two vertebrae of his backbone near the base of his neck had to be removed in order to take out the tumor, which was benign. But unlike all other known cases of this rare type of tumor where the cancer doesn’t spread, Devon’s cerebral spinal fluid was found positive for cancer.
Extremely intense full spinal and brain radiation treatments followed and Devon has since been stable and free of cancer for nearly five years.
Dozens of other families like the Wootens who have been treated at the UAMS Radiation Oncology Center (ROC) attended a special tailgate Sept. 7 prior to the Arkansas Razorbacks’ game against the Samford Bulldogs at War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock as part of the UAMS ROC Stars program.
“It’s a really neat thing to see other families and their kids here who have gone through similar things we have,” said Sarah Wooten, Devon’s mother. “This is his first Hogs game ... it’s really a big day for him.”
The UAMS ROC Stars are pediatric cancer patients treated at the UAMS Radiation Oncology Center, part of the Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute. The ROC is the only radiation treatment facility in the state that treats children. Many of those children receive the rest of their cancer treatment at UAMS’ pediatric affiliate, Arkansas Children’s Hospital.
“The UAMS ROC Stars program celebrates these young cancer patients and survivors and their families, who play a critical role in their treatment,” said Peter Emanuel, M.D., director of the UAMS Cancer Institute.
Each ROC Star attending the game received a commemorative T-shirt and a Hogs football autographed by Razorbacks Head Coach Brett Bielema. The tailgate was paid a special visit from the Razorbacks cheerleaders, who led several Hog calls with the patients and families. The group also was recognized over the Public Address System during the game to a standing ovation.
“These are all just great kids out here who had a lot of support from their families and communities and their doctors,” said Michael Heath, father of 12-year-old ROC Star Korey Heath. “It’s really great to be a part of something like this and see a lot of smiles on a lot of faces.”
Nearly one year ago, UAMS doctors found a cancerous tumor in Korey Heath's brain. She is now cancer-free and has just one treatment left. After a chat with several Razorbacks cheerleaders, Heath said she was ready to check out the stadium seating.
“It’s my first game and I can’t wait to see them play,” she said. “I’m a big fan and have been looking forward to this for a long time.”
The first UAMS ROC Stars celebration was held last year with a party at UAMS chaired by Arkansas first lady Ginger Beebe to honor these children in observance of childhood cancer month, which is each September.
Check out more photos from the event on the UAMS Facebook page.