The Newnan Times-Herald

Health

Benefit ride to raise money, celebrate life of local child


  • By Maggie Bowers
  • |
  • Jun. 21, 2017 - 10:09 AM

Benefit ride to raise money, celebrate life of local child

Photo by Megan Bellew

According to mom, Crystal Tucker, 5-year-old LJ is a shy child, but is “a character” at home with his family.

Several Coweta residents are seeking the support of the local community on behalf of a special Newnan family.
 
It was just two short months ago that Chris and Crystal Tucker received the devastating news that their son, LJ, age 5, is facing a rare form of brain cancer. 
 
After noticing several health issues they found concerning, Chris and Crystal Tucker brought LJ to see a physician. In April, LJ was diagnosed with Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma (DIPG), a highly aggressive and difficult to treat brain tumor. Early symptoms appear in the facial muscles and often affect eye movement.
 
The cancerous growth, according to the Weill Cornell Brain and Spine Center in New York, occurs almost exclusively in children. Although surgery is the treatment of choice for many types of brain tumors, the option is not possible for most children with DIPG. 
 
The tumor, according to Weill Cornell, is often embedded into normal brain tissue, making surgical removal impossible. 
 
This is the case with LJ, whose tumor is located at the base of his brain, near the top of the spine. Chris and Crystal were told by doctors that their son may have as little as nine months to live. The family agreed to radiation, the primary treatment for DIPG, according to the Childhood Brain Tumor Foundation. Radiation will be followed by chemotherapy. 
 
Neither treatment will diminish the tumor, but may extend LJ’s time with his family. 
 
After learning of LJ’s illness, Brittany Wilson, a friend of the Tucker family, decided to organize a community event to not only raise money for medical expenses, but to “celebrate LJ’s life.”
 
“I met Crystal through a mutual friend,” Wilson said. “When I heard about LJ being sick, I wasn’t aware at all of how serious it was until I did some research myself one night.”
 
Wilson explained that, after reading several articles regarding DIPG, she was heartbroken for the Tucker family and “couldn’t do anything that night except pray.” The mother of two said she simply could not imagine losing a child. 
 
“When I asked Crystal if I could put the benefit together my goal was just to ask the community to pour out as much love and encouragement as we possibly could for this family,” Wilson said. “I don’t ever want them to feel alone or forgotten about with what they are facing.”
 
Wilson and several other locals have organized a benefit ride on behalf of the Tucker family. 
 
The Love 4 LJ Event will take place on July 15 at the Royal Baptist Church in Newnan, located at 70 Mayo Royal Industrial Drive. The event will begin at 11 a.m. and will include a group motorcycle and automobile ride along with several raffle opportunities, food vendors, face painting and bouncy houses for children attending. 
 
Registration for riders will begin at 11 a.m. and will be $20 per individual rider, $5 per passenger and $25 for all other vehicles. Tickets for general attendance will be available at $5 per person. The event, according to Wilson and other organizers, is being organized and provided for by volunteers to ensure that all proceeds received can be given directly to the Tucker family. 
 
Recently, LJ was introduced to Karlye Boyd, a brain tumor survivor living in Coweta. 
 
Karlye, the 9-year-old daughter of Pastor TJ and Jenifer Boyd of Grantville, was diagnosed with Frontal Cortical dysplasia in February 2016. This was a tumor was located in the front lobe of Karlye’s brain and removal of the tumor required surgery. 
 
“We can relate to their pain and worry," said TJ Boyd. “The Tucker family is facing their greatest fears. Our goal is to let them know that they don’t have to face it alone."
 
Crystal Tucker said despite the diagnosis and treatment, LJ is strong and is doing well. 
 
“LJ likes to play outside,” Tucker said of her youngest son. “He likes to play in water, even just in the hose in the yard. I always have to stop him from running for the hose and trying to squirt everyone.”
 
Tucker said now that the radiation treatments are done, LJ struggles with taking the chemotherapy pills that he is given twice a day. The Newnan mom said he doesn’t like taking the pills and often reminds her that they “hurt his stomach.”
 
“LJ is a very shy child,” Tucker explained. “But, he really is a character with us. I really don’t know what I will ever do without him.”
 
For more information on the upcoming benefit event for LJ Tucker and family, contact organizer Brittany Wilson at 470-241-0859 or email brittanykay1987@gmail.com