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September 30, 2016

Team Kyle to show its support during hospice walk
The Salem News

DANVERS — Members of Team Kyle were busy Thursday wielding markers, scissors and glue as they created lawn signs to go along the route of the 29th annual Walk for Hospice this Sunday.

The sign-making effort was all for Kyle O’Grady, a 14-year-old Danvers High freshman who, for about a year, has been receiving palliative care and support through Care Dimensions’ pediatric hospice program.

Kyle has suffered a reoccurrence of an aggressive and rare form of brain cancer, the progression of which doctors can slow but cannot cure.

The walk to benefit the hospice and end-of-life care agency, Care Dimensions, is expected to draw 5,000 to 6,000 participants, family and staff in and around the neighborhood of St. John’s Prep. 

A handful of people have officially registered to walk for Team Kyle, and about 50 people will be out to support it, his family says. The team, sporting purple shirts and a thumbs up logo, has already surpassed its $2,500 fundraising goal.

“It’s fun,” Kyle said about the sign-making going on in his living room. He intends to be at the walk to cheer his team on.

“It’s awesome,” said sister Morgan, 13, as she sat on the couch next to Kyle, making an elaborate sign complete with raised foam letters.

In May 2014, after a period of not feeling well, Kyle, the son of Brett and Abbie O’Grady, was diagnosed with a rare childhood brain cancer called high risk medulloblastoma. It’s considered high risk because it has spread to other parts of his brain and spinal column.

The teen has undergone intensive treatments, his mother said, which included surgery, radiation and chemotherapy, and numerous hospital stays. 

After losing his hair to the treatments, he sports short bushy hair today.

Kyle has received an outpouring of support from the community. While a student at Holten Richmond Middle School last year, students held a Miles for Kyle walk-a-thon. He also traveled with other teens who were being treated at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute to meet Red Sox players at spring training, including Dustin Pedroia.

It turns out, Abbie O’Grady is no stranger to the work of Care Dimensions, and hospice care. She has worked as a nurse case manager for the nonprofit, formerly called Hospice of the North Shore and Greater Boston, for more than four years. 

As part of her job, she talks with hospice patients and their families, and works with patients in nursing homes.

“A lot of people don’t realize, and I didn’t when Kyle was diagnosed with the reoccurrence, that the pediatric team is very, very different from typical hospice,” she said. “So Kyle is allowed to still seek active treatment and at the same time have the benefit of the hospice team as well, which I think has been huge, not just for Kyle but for our whole family.”

Care Dimensions not only provides nursing visits for Kyle, but the team meets with Kyle and his family to provide counseling and support. His mother says there is often a lot of laughter coming out of these sessions.

“Every Thursday, at 2:30, there is a whole team in there,” she said. “I open the door and all you hear is laughter and you think that is what it’s about. Every single Thursday.”

A child life specialist meets with Kyle and Morgan, as well as their two younger siblings, Brady, 4, and Connor, 2.

“This stuff’s devastating and heartbreaking and how do you even process it on your own, let alone help children to process it, you know?” Abbie said, “and they help us do that. They help us to know what to say, what to do, how to act, how to feel, and give us the validation of what we are feeling. It’s OK to be confused. It’s OK to be sad, that sort of thing.”

Team Kyle

The concept of Team Kyle, and the community support that has gone along with it, goes back to when Kyle was first diagnosed more than two years ago.

The lawn signs are just the latest show of support, and they are destined for the lawn of the Longbow Road home of Kyle’s nurse, Marianne Barker. Those also helping out to craft the signs on Thursday were Care Dimensions’ child life specialist Kristen Goodhue, chaplain Larry Atkins and social worker Kara Cheek.

Fortunately, Kyle has been asymptomatic for a while, his mother says. After an intense round of treatments, Kyle did well for about six months, then an MRI showed the cancer had spread.

“He is still getting some treatment,” Abbie said, “kind of modified on how he tolerates it. But it’s all geared at prolonging his life,” and keeping the cancer from spreading too fast.

As for Kyle, his interests are like that of any teen. He likes playing games on his XBOX or watching TV on his iPad. He’s also a fan of comic superheroes like Iron Man and Deadpool.

Staff writer Ethan Forman can be reached at 978-338-2673, by email at eforman@salemnews.com or on Twitter at @DanverSalemNews.  

If you go

What: The 29th Annual Walk for Hospice benefiting Care Dimensions (formerly Hospice of the North Shore & Greater Boston)
When: Sunday, Oct. 2, at 9 a.m.
Where: St. John’s Preparatory School, 72 Spring St., Danvers
The Walk: 3-mile walk or a shorter route for people of all ages
Registration: Starts at 8 a.m.; the walk kicks off at 9, rain or shine
Get involved: Visit www.caredimensions.org/walk


Since 1978, Care Dimensions has provided comprehensive and compassionate care for individuals and families dealing with life-threatening illnesses. As the non-profit leader in advanced illness care, we offer services in more than 90 communities in Eastern Massachusetts.