Note: This story has been updated to include links with more information and reflect the expanded length of Mason Palmour's fundraiser as well as the ages of children who can sign up for it.
Locals now have another opportunity to support Dawson County High School sophomore Mason Palmour in the near future.
Friends and family will host a “punt, pass and kick” fundraiser on Saturday, April 16 at Rock Creek Park from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Proceeds will go toward Mason receiving a vital cancer treatment from a California facility.
Kids starting with the youngest group of 5 and 6-year-olds and up to 18-year-olds will compete to see who can kick and throw a football the longest distance. Registration is open until April 13, and the entry fee is $25.
People can sign up through the link on the “MasonStrong Fundraising” Facebook page. Volunteers are also needed for the event.
A GoFundMe has also been set up for the teen, and it’s called “#MasonStrong: Help Mason Get Treatment.”
As of March 31, over $23,000 has been raised for Mason through the GoFundMe. During a Nov. 28 gathering for Mason at the DCHS football field, a group of 50-55 people raised over $20,000 in donations in support of the teen.
Mason Palmour also has a bank account with Bank OZK in Dawsonville for people wanting to make a deposit there on behalf of him. Multiple local businesses have also donated to the upcoming April event for the teen, according to the MasonStrong Fundraising Facebook page.
For the treatment, Mason and his family have to raise between $130,000-$150,000 to get the waiting list.
The treatment is above and beyond what insurance will cover.
“Even with all the natural supplements he is currently taking, he needs this treatment to ensure that this tumor will not return,” said Mason’s mother, Alison Palmour. “We do not want him to have to endure the pain he has already been through with repetitive chemo and radiation treatments.”
Mason, a DCHS football safety and wide receiver and fishing team member, was diagnosed with Grade 4 Glioblastoma, a rare and potent type of brain cancer, this past fall.
According to a written account from his mother, a progression of neurological symptoms resulted in Mason collapsing at home one October day and losing movement on the right side of his body. The following day, his father took him to an emergency room and an MRI found a blood clot on the teen’s brain.
He was then transported to Children Healthcare of Atlanta’s Scottish Rite hospital. Three weeks of testing did not reveal what had caused the blood clot. After weeks of inpatient therapy, Mason was released to go home and was scheduled to continue a day rehab program with the hospital.
Two weeks after that, the teen began experiencing headaches that got progressively worse. Mason was taken in for an emergency MRI on Nov. 24, which revealed a tumor on the teen’s brain that had grown so aggressively it was now visible in imaging.
Doctors were unsure about what type of tumor it was, but they went ahead and scheduled surgery to remove it within the coming week, according to the earlier DCN article.
While his mother initially went home to prepare for Thanksgiving, plans changed later that night after Mason began vomiting, lost his speech and became unresponsive. Thanksgiving morning, he had emergency surgery to relieve swelling, followed by another surgery to control bleeding from a brain bleed.
Then on Nov. 29, Mason had a third surgery to remove the brain tumor. During that time, his parents and three sisters were there to support him.
“The way his (Mason’s) dad explained it to me, the cancer has grown like a plant,” said family friend and Mason’s former coach, Mike McCarthy. “With cancer in other parts of the body, you can take the top and the roots…but because it’s on his brain, they were only able to take the parts could see and the roots are [still] in his brain.”
Even though Mason still had to do radiation and chemotherapy because of the cancer’s aggressiveness, Alison began researching and contacting other connections about possible alternatives. She previously worked for a natural health doctor that treated cancer patients. A family member told Alison that her boss had a daughter receiving treatment at the Seraph Research Institute in Los Angeles, California. Mom reached out to that person, who guided her “in all the right directions.”
“This was a God thing! He has led us here! I just know it,” said Alison.
The treatment sought by his family is called natural killer cell therapy with dendritic cell therapy.
Alison explained that during the procedure, cells are taken from a healthy immune system and then infused into a patient’s body, ideally tricking the person’s immune system to fight the cancer.
If Mason is able to get the therapy, she’s optimistic about the potential results. In a medical study, a 36-year-old male with two grade 4 Glioblastoma tumors, the same kind of cancer as Mason. The man was given a prognosis of six months after doctors were unable to remove the tumors.
After starting the new therapy at Seraph Research Institute, the man’s tumors were eliminated, and he is now two-and-a-half years cancer free.
Mason’s parents hope their son is able to start the treatment and have radiation and chemotherapy as a backup option. So far, Mason has undergone six weeks of radiation and he just started chemotherapy. He has also taken supplements and had acupuncture, massage, chiropractic and physical therapy treatments to address his symptoms.
“We want to make sure Mason gets the best care possible, and that’s why we’re doing what we’re doing,” McCarthy said of the fundraiser. “This is a small town and community, so we’re just trying to do what we can.”
“I believe God will provide the funds if that’s where he’s meant to be,” Alison added. “I want to raise awareness about this rare type of cancer, and I want him (Mason) to have a testimony and show that there is hope for [beating] it.”
Robert voiced gratitude for all of the generous donations for bills, food and transportation given to his family during his son’s medical ordeal. He also thanked people for tending to the family’s house and animals while they were away at the hospital.
“There’s so many people with such big hearts, who said, ‘Don’t worry about anything. We have everything under control [here],’” Robert said.
Robert called the local goodwill since his son, Mason’s cancer diagnosis “life changing.”
“Without the support of this community, I don’t know where we’d be…we definitely wouldn't be where we are now,” he said.
Alison shared that it was hard and exhausting dealing with their fears and concerns in the beginning, but she appreciates that God’s been on her son’s side this whole time.
She called Mason breaking his finger in early fall before football season a “godsend” and praised God for more natural treatments that have helped Mason tolerate his limited mobility and associated neurological symptoms.
Robert considers Mason “his best friend,” and the two are very close.
“Me being able to be with him [more often] is only possible because of community support,” Robert said.
While it’s been difficult to watch his son’s journey, he is proud of how the teen’s endured. Mason’s doctors have been amazed that the teen has been able to recover so well at this point.
“Amazingly, he has the best attitude of everyone,” Robert added. “He’s a fighter through and through. He does what he’s supposed to do…[and] he’s determined to get through this and get mobility back on his right side.”
“He (Mason) is more concerned about others around him than himself. That’s his character, and he’s always been that way,” Alison added.
Mason just wants to “get back to being a 16-year-old boy again,” said Alison, with visions of him fishing, playing football and being able to drive the truck that Robert fixed up for him.
Robert has also been brainstorming how to make fishing accessible for his son and use adaptable equipment that requires only one arm to use.
A few days ago, he took Mason out for fishing again.
“It’s pretty exciting to get him back to something he loves to do,” Robert said.
“Mason just wanted to say thank you for the love and support that everyone’s shown him,” the father added. “He knows that he’s just a blessed person, and he’s going to keep fighting.”
Alison believes God is in this “100 percent” for Mason and has been with her son “every step of the way.”
“Soon Mason will, with your (local) help, go on to tell his testimony on how God made a way, where all seemed impossible,” she said. “If you are unable to donate, prayers are always needed!”