Greensburg Daily News, Greensburg, IN

February 26, 2014

Local boy shaves head to raise money for cancer research

By Amanda Browning Daily News
Greensburg Daily News

---- — ST. PAUL – Gavin “Gabs” Jon Coria will soon be eight years old, but he has already overcome bigger obstacles than most people will ever face, just to survive.

Gavin was born with infantile fibrosarcoma, a very rare cancer of the soft tissue. The cancer was discovered when Gavin was one month old, and he began treatment immediately. After undergoing numerous tests, medications, surgeries and chemotherapy, Gavin was declared to be in remission at four months old.

While he still goes to the Riley Hospital for Children Survivor’s Clinic once a year for a check-up, Gavin’s mother, Jodie Louthain, said he is doing great and now focuses on helping other kids with cancer, as well as raising awareness about the lifelong after-effects that come with cancer.

“They say you survive cancer, and yes, you survive, but there are so many after-effects that go along with it,” Louthain said.

Gavin met a boy named Alan whom he originally thought had the same kind of cancer. Though Alan had a sarcoma, it was a different kind of cancer. The boys’ families became good friends, but sadly, Alan passed away when he was five years old. Gavin saw Alan’s dad shaving his head as part of a fundraiser for an organization called the St. Baldrick’s Foundation and decided he wanted to do it too.

Gavin learned about the program and decided he wanted to raise the money and donate it in Alan’s memory. He and his family like St. Baldrick’s because they operate with transparency and 100 percent of the money donated goes to children’s hospitals around the country to be used for research on all forms of childhood cancers.

Last year was his first attempt and Gavin raised $1,001 to be donated. This year, Gavin’s goal is $2,000. When he reaches his goal, Gavin will make a video of his head being shaved and post it to the St. Baldrick’s website. Due to medical problems in the family, they haven’t had much chance to promote his fundraiser and collect pledges this year.

Gavin has a 14-year-old brother that lives at home with him, as well as an older brother and sister that are in college. All his siblings fully support his efforts and do what they can to help him raise money. Gavin also has over 1,000 fans on his Facebook page, “Team Gavin Jon,” that offer constant support for his mission.

Gavin’s Facebook page is dedicated to showing others what life is like after cancer. He also enjoys posting funny things and sharing videos. He is now learning to type and his mother said he likes to leave quotes as well. Anyone visiting his page is likely to see many penguin related posts, as Gavin has a penguin obsession.

The young survivor has a message he shares with others fighting cancer – penguin power. Gavin’s mother told the Daily News what Gavin tells others.

“Keep moving forward and use that penguin power. Basically, any struggles that get in his way, he has the power of all those penguins and they help him. He thinks prayer helps and is very big into it. He prays every day for his friends and the kids he doesn’t know in all hospitals,” Louthain said. “Gavin is all about being strong.”

Gavin’s mother said he is very aware of what other cancer-stricken children go through because of his visits to Riley for checkups. She said he really likes to help other kids. In addition to raising money for St. Baldrick’s, Gavin helps with the radio songs for Riley program, donates to the Riley Cheer Fund and collects coloring books and simple toys to create care packages for other kids with sarcomas like his.

“It’s not just cancer; he wants to learn other ways to help people. We saw a homeless man and he wanted to get him a sandwich. We see everything at Riley and I think it shows him a lot of compassion too. They don’t see kids in wheelchairs or hooked up to machines, they see kids who just want friends,” Louthain said.

Louthain told the Daily News that he doesn’t let things get him down. His positive attitude allows him to view the world in a unique way that gives him a special perspective he uses to help others.

“He’s had a couple incidents where he was made fun of because of the tumor spot on his arm. He had to learn that some people will say mean thing and you just have to keep moving forward and you’re special in your own way. We tell him he’s like Nemo, with his own lucky fin.”

Life experiences have made a large impact on Gavin and his siblings, according to Louthain.

“I feel very blessed. In the world today, you see so much bullying and children being mean to each other. For not just him, but his siblings, to give back so much in their own way, it makes me feel very proud to call him my son,” Louthain said.

Gavin has been growing his hair all year for his St. Baldrick’s virtual shaving party. On April 7, Gavin will upload a video of his head being shaved, as well as before and after pictures. All the money raised will be donated to St. Baldrick’s in Alan’s memory.

Anyone interested in donating to Gavin’s fundraiser can do so at http://bit.ly/1kc3p7G. He has currently raised $100, which is five percent of his total goal. If one goes directly to the St. Baldrick’s website, search for “Gavin Jon C.” to get to the right page. Louthain said he plans to continue shaving his head every year to raise money for St. Baldrick’s.

Gavin would love to have more fans and friends on his Facebook page. He would also like to help anyone else who is sick and needs support, advice or just someone who understands the struggle.

Contact: Amanda Browning 812-663-3111 x7004; amanda.browning@greensburgdailynews.com