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Virtual Steve’s Run personal for SMC accountant

07/14/2020 - 8am
Breanna Rees and her nephew, Maddux

Staff Accountant Breanna Rees came to Southwestern Michigan College on a vocal scholarship in the fall of 2013 and never left.

She started volunteering for Steve’s Run in 2014, hanging out along the trails, cheering on runners and making sure they took the correct path.

“As my time at SMC has grown, my involvement in Steve’s Run has grown, too,” the former resident assistant and part-time Student Activity Center supervisor said. “Now every year I have the privilege of going to Steve’s grave site and decorating it with flowers, lanterns and a memorial sign as runners come past his grave. It’s humbling.”

Her experience this year will be entirely different, and not just because COVID-19 transformed Steve’s Run into a virtual event running July 25-Aug. 1.

“Every year I sat listening to the stories of survivors, empathizing with them and trying to understand,” Rees said. “This year hits a little closer to home than I expected” because her 4-year-old nephew Maddux is recovering from a stage one Wilms tumor, a rare kidney cancer.

Maddux and his parents live in Mankato, Minn., so he is being treated at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, which Steve’s Run benefits. Steve’s Run in the last 15 years has raised more than $180,000 for cancer research and student scholarships.

Maddux, then 3, went to the doctor March 10 because Breanna’s sister, Lindsey, and the boy’s father, Mitch Allore, noticed a lump on his right side just under his rib cage. Maddux was running a 103-degree fever and experiencing a lot of pain.

Maddux had a cancerous softball-sized tumor removed along with his right kidney during surgery on March 12, leaving a hockey stick-shaped scar across his stomach. He is halfway through six months of weekly chemotherapy.

“To add onto chemo, he is also facing the struggle of COVID-19,” Rees said. “Maddux has to be tested before every double treatment, which is every three weeks. That chemo is a heavier dose and does take a toll on his little body. The COVID test is done outside in the vehicle. Because of COVID, only one parent has been allowed to go to chemo treatments with him” until June 10, when that restriction was lifted.

“Maddux is not a fan of the COVID test, which he says ‘tickles’ his brain,” Rees said. “After chemo, especially the double treatments, Maddux struggles with nausea he can’t quite comprehend.”

By then, he’s ready to return home to see his big sister, Jayna, who turned 6 on May 24 — born almost two years to the day before his May 23, 2016, birth.

“The doctors at Mayo explained that this is highly treatable and he should go on to live a normal life,” Rees said. “We are extremely hopeful this is true and so is Maddux. The main thing is to stay away from activities that may cause a direct hit to his midsection, like dirt bike riding.

“When we were in the hospital, he knew he was sick and that everyone was worried,” she said. “Maddux, who is one wild little boy, was quiet and reserved. He took in his environment and watched as people came and left, holding hands with the people he has recognized his entire life. He was able to walk to the play area, and after about two hours of coaxing, I was able to get him to play with some cars.

“When we were in the hospital, Maddux didn’t speak much. He knew he wanted to watch the Disney movie, Cars, and to rest. Now that he has gone through quite a few chemo treatments, Maddux understands that the doctors at the Mayo Clinic are there to help him.”

Rees’ sister met Mitch at the University of Minnesota Crookston. She played volleyball. He played baseball. Mitch sells sports items and has his own landscaping business. Lindsey is a production facilitator for Boom Chicka Pop popcorn.
Steve's Run is a 10K run, 5K walk/run and fun run held in honor of Steven Briegel, who
m cancer claimed at age 22. Steve was the son of former SMC President David Briegel.
Registration continues until July 25. Sign up at runsignup.com/stevesrun.