NARROWS, Va. — The Giles High School football team is fighting through it’s most challenging season in many a year, including the end of an epic winning streak over county rival Narrows. This year, more than ever, Spartans coaches, players and fans aren’t crazy about anything with a green and gold color scheme.
The exception to that rule would be Narrows junior varsity cheerleader Alexius Dawson. She is, without question, Giles High School’s favorite Green Wave.
Spartans fans, students, players and cheerleaders came through for the 14-year-old Dawson in a big way, joining with Narrows High School players and supporters during Giles-Narrows game week to help raise funds to help pay for the ninth-grader’s imminent medical battle with osteosarcoma.
“It was absolutely amazing,” said Narrows head football coach Kelly Lowe. “That night at the ballgame they did a raffle and a donation and they also did a hot dog dinner before the game. These two communities raised over $10,000 for that family. It was a great night. It sure was. And it was a great lesson for our kids. That was a big football game for us, but it was more important than a football game. This is life. This little girl is getting ready to battle something we’d wish on no one. She’s facing it courageously ... she’s helped us put everything in perspective.”
On game week, students from both schools wore T-shirts declaring their support for her. Giles even painted a yellow ribbon on Steve Ragsdale Field in her honor. Ty Lowery, a Giles team captain, and Dustin Wiley, a Narrows team captain, vocally represented the two bitter rivals’ united support for Dawson.
Volunteers standing outside gate took cash donations for Dawson using actual Giles and Narrows football helmets as donation buckets. A Yeti cooler stocked with assorted items was raffled off. There was also a pre game hot dog dinner set up in Pearisburg by Narrows fans, which raised over and above the $10,000 raised at the game.
There was such a whirlwind of fundraising activity at both schools during the rivalry week and the organizing was so spontaneous, Alexius’ mother, Nikki Horton said she has no idea who to thank for getting the ball rolling.
“I can’t tell you who set it up. I don’t know myself,” said Horton, whose entire family has been caught up in a whirlwind with Alexius’ illness.
It all began with an injury and episodes of chronic pain that aren’t all that uncommon for active and athletic youngsters.
Dawson, a freshman who is one of the captains of the Narrows junior varsity cheerleading squad, was dropped during a Little League cheer stunt two years ago, landing hard on her right hip. She was x-rayed and diagnosed with a deep bruise. The pain mostly went away, but the youngster would from time to time complain of recurring pain in her hip. Subsequent examinations determined that either the area was still deeply bruised or perhaps some arthritis was affecting it.
“She ran track at the end of the school year last year and she tried running hurdles. That’s when the pain started and did not let up. It got to the point that over the summer, when cheer began this season, she was just lying in bed crying,” said Horton, who subsequently obtained Alexius an appointment with Blacksburg, Va. orthopedic surgeon Dr. Bart Eastwood on August 30. After x-rays failed to single out the problem, an MRI was slated for Sept. 5. This let to a CAT scan of her pelvic area on Sept. 9.
“That evening, Dr. Eastwood called me and told me that she needed to be at Wake Forest the next day at 10:30 (a.m.),” Horton said. “We saw several doctors there. One was a pediatric surgeon who told us that he was pretty certain that she had osteosarcoma. We saw a pediatric oncologist that day who explained more about treatments and what could happen. They scheduled her biopsy and port to be done ... and we were back (at Wake Forest) on the 13th for that.”
Alexius’ first round of treatments are expected to begin this coming Wednesday. She spent this weekend at the beach in Destin, Fla. for a little vacation with her extended family to rest for the fight to come.
The good news is that the little girl has a fighting chance. Preliminary results indicate that her osteosarcoma appears to be in a non-metastatic stage.
“She’ll have two treatments, Wednesday and Thursday, and we’ll talk more about how many she needs and how often she needs it, and so forth,” Horton said.
The cheerleader has a lot of people cheering for her. Not just at Narrows and Giles — but at other communities throughout the area. There are other ongoing benefit fundraisers as well.
“The amount of support that she has is truly amazing. The Narrows-Giles game was a huge event and it was pretty much about her that night. I’m still amazed about that. And there have been other people,” said Horton, who for instance called the Craig County principal last week to thank him for the yellow ribbons the Rockets gave to the Lady Wave volleyball players in Alexius’ honor.
“They’re going to do something for her at the Narrows-Craig County game. Bath County’s volleyball girls have done headbands for her. The Pulaski County cheerleaders just sent her a package today. It’s just everywhere surrounding us. It’s been amazing,” Horton said.