Austin natives to host fundraiser

Published 10:20 am Friday, October 3, 2008

Another example how parents will do anything for a child will occur this fall.

Mark and Cathy Penning are planning a concert and silent auction to benefit child cancer research at the Mayo Clinic.

The fundraiser will be held at Northfield on Sunday, Nov. 2.

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Organizers of the benefit have Austin roots, and this makes it “personal” to those who know the family.

In the father’s own words, the seriousness of the situation is underlined.

“In March of 2006 our son Jim, a high school sophomore, was diagnosed with Ewings Sarcoma,” the father began his story. “Ewings Sarcoma is a particularly nasty cancer as it spreads aggressively and once it has spread, prognosis is not good.

“This cancer is often misdiagnosed as a sports injury (which is exactly happened with our son) and therefore, more often than not, spreads,” the father went on to say. “Once spread, there is an approximate survival rate of 25 percent.

According to the father, “Jim did what the doctors thought impossible: Receive some of the strongest chemotherapy treatments given and have major surgery to remove cancer tissue and still compete and live as normal a high school life as possible.”

The teen’s treatments occurred over a period of one year.

“Through it all, Jim maintained his studies in school and even competed on the Northfield High School golf team and the Northfield High School swim team, where he qualified to participate in the Minnesota High School State Swim Meet,” the proud father noted.

There is a darker side to the story.

Published reports state that childhood cancers are diagnosed late, resulting in an 80 percent probability that the cancer has spread as opposed to 20 percent of adults diagnosed with cancer.  Additionally, in the case of Ewings Sarcoma, the basic treatments have not changed in 30 years.

“Currently Jim is a survivor, but has five more years of check-ups and scans,” the father predicted. “These scans occur every three months and he has had two clear scans.”

Should the cancer reoccur, the prognosis for survival drops to 10 percent.

“It is because of this that we have been moved to do this fundraiser,” the father said. “It is our goal to provide events that will educate, raise awareness, and provide much needed funds for childhood cancer research.”

“We have a number of excellent musicians who are taking part,” he said. “For example, St. Olaf and Carleton music professors, the Northfield High School Madrigal group, and many other extremely talented musicians from around the area.”

“In fact, we have a musician flying in from Atlanta, Georgia just for this event,” he added.

The silent auction begins at 3 p.m. Nov. 2 and the concert begins at 4 p.m. and will be held at the Northfield Middle School Auditorium in Northfield.

Helping Mark and Cathy Penning organize the fundraiser and public awareness event are others with Austin roots, including his brother, Rick Penny, and Dan and Christie Kallman.

A special guest speaker at the Nov. 2 event will be Dr. Carola Arndt, professor of pediatrics, division chair, pediatric hematology oncology, from the Mayo Clinic.

For more information about assisting the benefit contact Mark Penning via e-mail mspenning@ or call (507) 645-0312.