GLOBAL.diocesan shieldAnita Draper
Catholic Herald staff

Andrew Smith was just 11 months old when he was diagnosed with bladder cancer. A year later, he was in remission, and the Amery High School senior feels fortunate to have no memory of his illness.

Still, when the wrestler learned Minnesota wrestling teams were raising money for cancer research, he wanted to get involved.

“I want to help out the world in any way I can,” he explained, “and what better way than to do so … (than by) doing a sport I love for a disease I beat!”

A recently confirmed member of St. Joseph, Amery, Andrew is the son of Aimee and Tom Smith. He has two brothers – David, a sophomore at the University of Minnesota Morris, and Mike, a freshman at Amery High School.

TakeDown Cancer is an effort by the Minnesota Wrestling Coaches Association to raise money for the Randy Shaver Cancer Research and Community Fund, a charity that funds prevention, research and treatment of cancer in Minnesota.

A sports and news anchor at KARE 11, a Twin Cities television station, Randy Shaver is also a survivor of Hodgkin’s Disease. His charity has raised more than $4 million, 90 percent of which is funneled directly into cancer programs.

“I heard of TakeDown Cancer from where I train during the off-season for wrestling at Pinnacle Wrestling Club in Shoreview, Minnesota,” Andrew added. “The TakeDown Cancer events started in Minnesota, but I wanted to bring them to Wisconsin. So I asked my coach and school to host the event, which they said most definitely. And that’s how the event came to Amery.”

The community’s first TakeDown Cancer event was Jan. 14. Everyone pitched in to support the cause – parents, school officials, local business owners, classmates, even wrestlers from New Richmond, the rival team, bought T-shirts – and the proceeds far exceeded his $2,000 goal.

“I raised over $10,000 last year and plan to raise half of that this year for a goal,” he said. “Various fundraising events are done … a run through the stands with buckets for a minute to seek donations, general donations, business donations, T-shirt sales, and new this year, tribute posters, which are pieces of paper in which fans and wrestlers may purchase a tribute and write a loved one’s name on … (to) recognize their bravery in the fight against cancer or their previous fight against cancer.”

The second TakeDown Cancer event was Dec. 3 in a match against Ellsworth. When the fundraising effort concludes, he hopes to have raised $5,000.

The Smith family moved to Amery before Andrew started school, and they’ve been active members of St. Joseph Catholic Church for years.

“My faith ties into the event because, as a Catholic, I look to become a better follower of Christ through the way I live my life,” he said. “I want to help out people as much as I can as a Christian, and this event is a great way for me to do so!”

After he graduates in June, Andrew plans to attend Saint John’s University near St. Cloud, Minnesota.