Baby Shawn leads September Walk for Pediatric Cancer

shawn1One year after his cancer diagnosis, Shawn Kennedy and his family are still fighting the good fight, but now they’re getting proactive and shifting their focus toward generating much-needed awareness for pediatric cancer.

On Sept. 1, “Baby” Shawn, as the 5-year-old Niagara Falls boy is affectionately known, will lead the Golden Steps 4 Pediatric Cancer Awareness walk, starting on Goat Island at the Top of the Falls restaurant. Proceeds from the walk will benefit the PUNT and the Go4TheGoal Foundations, both of which work to help children with cancer and their families.

“PUNT was started by Brian Moorman, he was a Buffalo Bills punter and he formed (PUNT) about 10 years ago. It’s a really unbelievable organization,” said Mike Esposito, a history teacher at Niagara Falls High School, who was also instrumental in Shawn meeting his basketball hero — Golden State Warriors star point guard Steph Curry.

Esposito has gotten involved with the family over the past year. He also added that Go4TheGoal is the organization that gets college athletes to wear gold shoelaces in support of pediatric cancer.

“Baby” Shawn was diagnosed with Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma (DIPG) on Aug. 14, 2015. The tumor is located near his brain stem, and is inoperable and considered highly aggressive. The good news is that, as of their last visit to St. Jude Children’s Hospital in Memphis, the tumor is currently stable and showing no new growth, according to “Baby” Shawn’s mother, Nicole Vathy. They’ll be heading back to St. Jude for another MRI in October.

Esposito said he’s working to get student athletes at the University at Buffalo, and possible from Niagara Falls High School and Niagara University, to get involved in the Golden Steps 4 Pediatric Cancer Awareness walk. They’ve even attempted to get the the NFL involved by bringing Commissioner Roger Goodell thousands of letter from children throughout the area asking to have the teams wear the gold laces in support of pediatric cancer during a game in September.

Esposito said that they didn’t get a definitive answer during their visit with Goodell in July, it seems like he may be considering it. Either way, the trip was a success for “Baby” Shawn, who got to enjoy a round of catch with Goodell, something any young sports fan would be thrilled to tell his friends about.

57a6962cf1d35.imageFor now, “Baby” Shawn is focusing on heading up the walk today.

“He’s excited,” Vathy said. “We have fliers ready, registration is up for online, we’re hoping it turns out to be really good. The Falls will be lit up gold.”

Those interested in signing up for the race can do so online at The run is free for children under 7, $15 for students, $20 for individuals or $65 for families. Registration includes gold shoelaces and a glow-in-the-dark gold wristband. The day will start with registration at 7:30 a.m. and will conclude around 10 p.m. with the Falls being lit gold in honor of the occasion.

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