Pediatric cancer research campaign pedals into Baton Rouge

Pediatric cancer research campaign pedals into Baton Rouge
(From left) Keagan Finley, Dave Geyer, Zach Major, Justin Crew

BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) -The Cannonballs Across America campaign pedaled its way into Baton Rouge on Sunday to raise money and awareness for pediatric cancer research.

The campaign has been biking across the country as a part of the Cannonballs for Kayne Foundation, honoring Kayne Finley, who passed away from diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma (DIPG), a rare form of brain cancer, in November 2017.

The cyclists, Keagan Finley, Justin Crew and Zach Major, were joined by LSU head swim coach Dave Geyer as they were escorted into Baton Rouge by the East Baton Rouge Sheriff’s Office.

“To me, it’s just all about the journey and trying to continue to raise awareness,” Crew, 22, said. “Just continuing to keep in mind that every pedal, every mile that we’ve passed, we’re raising a little bit more awareness to this fight that all these young amazing kids like Kayne are struggling with.”

The crew stopped at Chick-Fil-A on Burbank Drive and were welcomed by friends, family, and members of the LSU swim team.

Zach Major (left) and Keagan Finley.
Zach Major (left) and Keagan Finley. (Source: Catherine Quant)

“It feels good to be in Baton Rouge,” Finley, 21, said.

Keagan is Kayne’s older brother, as well as director of the Cannonballs for Kayne Foundation and member of the LSU swim team.

“This was my brother’s dream place to go to school for four years, so it feels good to be where he wanted to go to school.”

Kayne and Keagan’s mother, Kirsten, also joined the team in Baton Rouge.

“It feels like coming home,” Kirsten said. “It’s like my happy place, it brings me a lot of joy when I come back here, because, as crazy as it sounds, I feel Kayne here. There’s joy here. There’s good times here.”

LSU swim team members Allie McDaid, Aimee Wilson, Alyssa Helak, Alexandria Ham and Olivia Paskulin.
LSU swim team members Allie McDaid, Aimee Wilson, Alyssa Helak, Alexandria Ham and Olivia Paskulin. (Source: Catherine Quant)

Beginning in Palo Alto, Calif. on May 17, the cyclists made their way across the country, visiting various hospitals and meeting families and patients affected by DIPG. The team will visit Our Lady of the Lake Children’s Hospital in Baton Rouge before beginning the journey to their final destination of Daytona Beach, Fl.

“It’s an endurance ride that we have to do, but it’s in memory of the kids that we’ve lost but also the ones who are still fighting and their own endurance ride and their own fight,” Major, 22, said. “Pediatric brain cancer, and just pediatric cancer in general, just doesn’t receive very much federal funding, so we’re kind of going this route to get funding that way.”

The addition of Coach Geyer also made the Baton Rouge homecoming bittersweet. Geyer joined the team in Mississippi and rode with them into Baton Rouge.

(From left) Keagan Finley, Dave Geyer, Zach Major and Justin Crew.
(From left) Keagan Finley, Dave Geyer, Zach Major and Justin Crew. (Source: Catherine Quant)

“My coach joining me is huge,” Keagan said. “I’ve been to three different colleges and four different high schools, so I’ve had all sorts of swim coaches. Not many of them would, one, be able to do this physically, and two, be willing to do it. That’s a big deal for me. It means so much to me. He had a strong connection with Kayne and everything, and that was just huge for him to want to join.”

When Kayne attended LSU in the fall of 2017, Geyer appointed him as the LSU swim team manager. When Kayne passed, Keagan transferred from Florida State University to LSU to live out his brother’s legacy.

Kirsten said that Geyer’s act of selflessness was “pretty incredible” and “hard to put into words.”

“What Dave did though, you know, being selfless, I think he just said, ‘I’m here for you,’” Kirsten said. “That just lifted Keagan’s spirits, it made it real, like, people do really care, and Kayne isn’t forgotten.”

Following the campaign’s completion on July 3, the Cannonballs for Kayne Foundation is continuing its efforts in raising money for pediatric cancer research. A conference room and a patient room in the oncology wing of Our Lady of the Lake in Baton Rouge will be dedicated and named after Kayne. As for what’s next, events like a memorial softball fundraiser and a Mardi Gras children’s parade are also planned, with proceeds going to innovative research methods and clinical trials for pediatric cancer.

Kirsten knows the plans may be big, but she is confident in the abilities of the foundation.

“Whatever is going to happen is going to happen,” Kirsten said. “But I know, eventually, it will happen. It might take a little bit to get there, but there’s so many strong people that want it to succeed, that it will succeed.”

To learn more about the Cannonballs for Kayne Foundation or the Cannonballs Across America campaign, visit cannonballs.org or cannonballsacrossamerica.org.

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