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Local Boy Chosen as St. Baldrick’s Foundation Ambassador

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EAST CLEVELAND—Austin Gallagher isn't your typical boy.

In 2007, the five-year-old was diagnosed with a Bilateral Wilm's tumor. He was just 10 months old.

"It's a devastating disease," said Krissy Gallagher, Austin's mother. "It takes the lives of a lot of children."

Since his initial diagnosis, the East Cleveland boy has been through chemotherapy and multiple surgeries, including one to remove his right kidney and half of his left. The cancer went away once, and then came back.

"We're lucky that we have Austin here today, but he is like many kids with cancer, living with life-long consequences of his treatment," Krissy said.

This year, Austin was chosen as one of five children ambassadors for the St. Baldrick's Foundation, a non-profit to fund research for cures to childhood cancers.

In 2011, the group raised $28 million. Most of the foundation's money comes from signature programs, which are their head-shaving events, Krissy said.

Austin's older brother, Braden, 8, shaved his head last year.

"It's a moving event," Krissy said. "It means a lot to see people out there, sometimes people that don't even know you, don't even know any kid with cancer."

Ambassadors like Austin are a reminder that cancer affects more than 160,000 children worldwide each year.

In the United States, research shows that one in five kids diagnosed with the disease will not survive.

"Truthfully, cancer is the highest associated death rate for kids, so only accidents are more prevalent for causing death in children," said Dr. Jeff Auletta, Austin's doctor at University Hospitals. "In his fighting spirit of Austin, he definitely seemed to be able to rise above it. That's what we find in kids. It's amazing how kids can rebound from what they have to go through from a cancer diagnosis."

Austin has made great progress in the past few years.

Although he will eventually need a transplant, his kidney is currently working and his prognosis, like his spirit, is absolutely bright.

"For us, it has given us a lot of positive," Krissy said. "It really has highlighted what is important in our lives, so right now we just feel lucky."

For more information on the St. Baldrick's Foundation, click here.

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