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Youth Sports Hero of the Month: Kyle Lograsso (Murrieta, California)

In 2004, two-year-old Kyle Lograsso had a routine physical check-up with his pediatrician. Kyle's mother had noticed a glare in her son's left eye, and she sensed that he was having difficulties with his vision. An ophthalmologist examined the boy, confirmed her worst fears, and told the Lograssos to fly immediately to Hawaii for two weeks of complete tests.

Kyle Lograsso

Kyle was diagnosed with Bilateral Retinoblastoma, cancer in both eyes. Surgeons immediately removed his left eye, whose aggressive tumor would have spread to his brain and proved fatal within about three months. It took eight surgeries to fit Kyle with a prosthetic eye. After six months of chemotherapy for four tumors in his right eye, he has been cancer-free since 2005 with 20/20 vision in his right eye.

Kyle's parents, Regina and Jeff Lograsso, recognized that recent advances in Retinoblastoma research had saved their son's life, even though the disease still afflicts between 250 and 300 children in the United States (and about 5,000 children worldwide) each year.

Shortly after Kyle's chemotherapy, his grateful parents joined their son to create the Through Kyle's Eyes Foundation (TKE). The Foundation seeks not only to alert parents to the importance of early detection; it also raises thousands of dollars for the Eye Tumor Research Foundation, Retinoblastoma International, Golfers Against Cancer, and other organizations that seek a cure for Retinoblastoma.

Golf is Kyle's sport, and also the inspiration for the Through Kyle's Eyes Foundation.  At about the time his 2004 cancer treatments, the two-year-old swung a golf club for the first time, and he has played with passion and enthusiasm ever since. The LA Times Magazine reports that he is "recognized as a legitimate golf prodigy," who shot 30 for nine holes and 78 for 18 holes before he was seven years old. Golf Digest also reports that the Lograssos "aren't the typical pushy Little League parents, they aren't trying to exploit the media for personal gain, and they continue to take all coverage on Kyle's courage in stride." The family has a mission, and ten-year-old Kyle plays an active role in the Foundation's charitable initiatives.

"I Want to Find a Cure"

The annual Through Kyle's Eyes Golf Tournament, with Kyle playing, raises needed funds. At Kyle's suggestion, TKE held the first annual "Fight Fore Sight 100 Hole Challenge" at Legends Golf Club in Temecula, California on July 20, 2012. He and other entrants each committed to playing 100 holes in one day, a prodigious chore for golfers of any age. By the end of the day, Kyle had played 109 holes and TKE had raised more than $90,000 from participants' entry fees and a nationwide array of donors.

"I want to find a cure," Kyle says. "I lost my left eye and I don't want other kids to get cancer and lose their left eye or right eye. . . . I don't want them to go through what I went through. It was really tough."

"The biggest lesson that Kyle has taught us," explains his mother, "is to live every day to the fullest. . . . [W]hen you leave this world, it will no longer matter how rich you were, how much you owned, or any of the other materialistic items you possessed. What will matter is the impact you had on others in life and what mark you left on the world you left behind."

Teachable Moments

Adults often speak about "teachable moments," opportunities for perceptive teachers, coaches and parents to help young athletes draw positive lessons from a negative event. Sometimes the negative event is relatively trivial, such as losing a tough game in the final minute. As in Kyle's case, sometimes the negative event is much more serious, such as a life-threatening disease, and adults can help guide their child to recovery while influencing others nearby who respect personal courage.

Teachable moments usually enable adults to guide their own children at home, and perhaps to influence a handful of children on a single team. Rarely do teachable moments produce national impact, and rarely do pre-teens participate as teachers. After overcoming adversity at a tender age, Kyle Lograsso is a rarity for holding "a special place in his heart for wanting to help other kids" whose needs he understands from personal experience.

Sources: http://www.kylelograsso.org; John Ireland, What Handicap?, LA Times Magazine, Oct. 2009; Marc Figueroa, Murietta Boy Will Swing for a Cure, North County Times, July 11, 2012; 9-Year-old Golfer Who Beat Eye Cancer Gives Back, http://www.ktla.com/news/landing/ktla-kid-golfer-beats-cancer,0,7165655.... (Aug. 3, 2011); http://www.retinoblastomainfo.com/ 

Posted October 1, 2012