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One ‘tough cookie’

MURFREESBORO – To call Henry Hodges a fighter would be an understatement.

Perhaps a powerhouse, a go-getter, a dynamo, a “tough cookie” or even a warrior can offer a more accurate description of this determined young man.

You see, Henry, at the age of eight, has been through more twists and turns in life than the average adult will endure. Diagnosed at 22 months-old with AT/RT (Atypical Teratoid Rhabdoid Tumors), which are very rare and fast-growing disorder of the central nervous system, Henry refused to surrender. At that time his doctors said Henry’s chance of survival was less than 10 percent.

Now, six years later, Henry lives life as a survivor. Back in March he celebrated a stable MRI with his family by enjoying a cupcake party.

“Henry has amazed everyone with his progress since his diagnosis and the start of his treatment six years ago,” said his mother, Melissa Parker of Murfreesboro. “Henry continues to deal with the side effects of treatment, but with his exceptional team of specialists and therapists he continues to make progress.

“Henry always stays on the sunny side of life,” Parker added. “He has taught us so many things on this journey and continues to show us all how to live life full of joy and hope. Henry is our hero.”

Meanwhile, the Hodges/Parker family – joined by a small army of friends – continues to host the annual Henry’s Heroes Golf Tournament. The 2018 version of that event is scheduled for Saturday, Aug. 11 at Valley Pine Country Club in Lasker.

The event not only features 18 holes of competitive golf, but a cornhole tournament and a pool party in order to offer a family-style atmosphere, which has been a trademark of this annual gathering since its inception.

“We wanted to give folks unique ways to get involved,” said Parker.

There are two tee times offered to the golfers (9 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. There is a pork barbecue lunch, with all the trimmings.

The registration fee for the golf tournament (choice of morning or afternoon tee time) is $250 per four-person team. That price includes lunch.

Other activities include a cornhole tournament at 3 p.m. Registration is $20 per two-person team. A pool party begins at 11 a.m. The fee is $10 for adults and $5 for children, which includes snacks and drinks.

A silent auction will be held during the event featuring a variety of items that will appeal to everyone.

Other ways to support the annual event include:

Website Sponsor – $100 – Name on Facebook Page & Website, and BBQ lunch;

Hole Sponsor – $200 – Name on a Hole, Facebook Page & Website, and BBQ lunch;

Morning Tee Time Sponsor – $500 – Recognition as main sponsor before & during event, name on Facebook page & Website, BBQ lunch, and Pool Party admission for two;

Afternoon Tee Time Sponsor – $500 – Recognition as main sponsor before & during event, name on Facebook page & Website, BBQ lunch, and Pool Party admission for two;

BBQ Lunch Sponsor – $500 – Recognition as main sponsor before & during event, name on Facebook page & Website, BBQ lunch, and Pool Party admission for two;

Tournament Sponsor – $1,000 – Recognition as tournament sponsor before and during event, name on Facebook page & Website, golf team registration for four with choice of tee time, BBQ lunch, and Pool Party admission for four; and

Donate items to the silent auction.

To become a sponsor, to register a team, or bid on Silent Auction items, visit https://birdeasepro.com/henrysheroes7.

If you are interested in donating items for the silent auction, contact Catherine Parker at 252-396-3535. For tournament or sponsorship assistance, contact Melissa Parker at 252-717-4238 or Chris Hodges at 252-902-4739. For golfing related questions, contact Brandon Hodges at 252-209-6491.

To date, the support received throughout the tournament has made it possible for organizers of the Henry’s Heroes Golf Tournament to send $35,000 to AT/RT research and provide over 300 gifts to children in the hospital at CHKD during the holidays. Last year, the $10,000 donation from the tournament that was sent to Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation for AT/RT research was matched, increasing the donation to $20,000. That fact raises the level of support generated by this annual tournament to AT/RT research to $45,000.

“We cannot thank you enough for your support and contributions made over the past six years in order for Henry’s Heroes Golf Tournament to be so successful,” noted Parker. “Last year the tournament raised over $15,000 after expenses allowing us to donate $10,000 to support research for ATRT through Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation and $1,000 to Henry & Daniel’s Holiday Helpers (at CHKD) as well as provide support for Henry’s continued needs. We cannot express how excited we were to find out that our donations were being matched.”

Parker added that the remainder of the funds generated by the tournament are used to assist the family in purchasing a Bioness Unit for Henry. This unit will allow Henry to use his left leg in a more functional way while walking and running.

“We are looking forward to another successful year in 2018 so we can continue to increase our support of childhood cancer research and Henry & Daniel’s Holiday Helpers in their mission to provide gifts to children who are inpatient at CHKD throughout the year,” Parker said.

AT/RT most commonly presents as a brain tumor, but can occur elsewhere in the central nervous system, including the spinal cord. Children over three have seen survival rates in the 70% range. Unfortunately, for children under three, that rate falls to 10%. Because most children diagnosed with AT/RT are under three, the overall survival rate has historically been very low.

There have been dramatic improvements in treatments recently and there is increased optimism that these new treatments will soon lead to significantly higher survival rates.

“We were given very little hope from the doctors that Henry’s prognosis would be anything good,” said Parker after her son was diagnosed in June of 2012. “The statistics for this specific type of brain cancer, especially for children of Henry’s age, are extremely upsetting. When faced with this news, we decided to focus on the positive each day and the hope that Henry would prove them wrong.”

Henry was in treatment 269 days between June of 2012 and March of 2013, of which he was inpatient in the hospital 117 days. During his hospital stays many of his days were spent in isolation with visitors limited and Henry being confined to his small hospital room in fear that he would get sick from something he picked up from others.

His treatment required that he have four surgeries, one of which was an unsuccessful tumor resection when he was first diagnosed. He also had a central line placed twice and removed and a VP shunt placed. That shunt remains in place in order to regulate the flow of fluid in his brain as needed.

Henry’s treatment included two rounds of traditional chemotherapy, three rounds of consolidated high dose chemotherapy with stem cell transplant, and 28 days of proton radiation therapy. Each of these rounds of chemo was intended to knock everything out, all counts at zero.

Henry received 10 different chemotherapy drugs, including rescue medications and 35 different medications for various side effects and infections caused by treatment.

Many of the chemotherapy drugs that he received were designed for adult cancers, not for his little body. However, he was forced to endure these drugs and all of their side effects in hopes of saving his life.

During his treatment Henry required countless blood and platelet transfusions. He has undergone numerous tests, including MRI’s, CT scans, X-rays, ultrasounds and several other tests to monitor the tumor and check for side effects from treatment. Through all of this Henry has remained happy with very little complaint about what he must endure.

You can continue to follow Henry’s journey at Henry’s Facebook page “Parker Hodges”

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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