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West Sacramento family battling son's terminal brain tumor credits organization for making all the difference

West Sacramento boy defies odds in terminal cancer fight
West Sacramento boy defies odds in terminal cancer fight 02:15

WEST SACRAMENTO -- Nonprofits across the Sacramento region hope you will consider them on Sacramento's annual "Big Day of Giving" on Thursday, May 2. 

One group to give to is close to the heart of the Richards family of West Sacramento: Keaton's Child Cancer Alliance

"Tyler was nine months old when they started to see signs something wasn't quite right," said his mother, Katie Richards. 

An MRI revealed parents Katie and Ronnie Richards' worst nightmare. 

Tyler was diagnosed with a rare ganglioglioma, a complex and inoperable brain tumor, six years ago. 

"It showed a huge mass in his brain," said Katie. "They said, 'It is terminal. Go home and live every moment because he's got months to a year.' " 

Every day since, Keaton's Child Cancer Alliance has been there for each step of the journey that turned their whole world upside down. They know that to fight childhood cancer, it takes an army. 

"Not one single family within our organization would have ever imagined being a cancer family," said Jessica Alonso, executive director. "We want to eliminate a lot of the guesswork for families so they can ultimately focus on what's most important. The care, the recovery of their child and the overall stability of their family unit."

Katie says Alonso and Keaton's Child Cancer Alliance has made all the difference in her family's battle. 

"Through this rollercoaster journey that it may be for many families. We are in it together, and that's whatever the outcomes may look like. They're not alone," said Alonso. 

Keaton's is based in Roseville and supports more than 450 Sacramento area families who have children with cancer. 

The organization is named after Keaton Rafael, who at 5 years old lost his battle with cancer. Parents Robyn and Kyle founded Keaton's Child Cancer Alliance in his memory to help make a difference for other children. 

The alliance provides emotional and everyday support to families through many avenues including financial grants, connection to medical resources and fun nights out to connect with other cancer families in similar situations. 

"I couldn't do it without them," said Katie. 

"It's these children and these families that inspire me to do what I do every day," said Alonso. "They are, at the end of the day, just kids that want to be kids." 

Tyler's grim diagnosis came six years ago.

He has continued to defy the odds and recently, after a scare, got good news that his tumor is stable.

Tyler takes a recently FDA-approved medication twice a day that helps stop the tumor's growth. The Richards credit that, and prayer, for Tyler's miraculous success.

"The brain can do amazing things. It's rewiring and processing to let him develop. He is making big strides," said Katie.

Katie knows those steps forward and backward in their cancer journey take a lot of support from a cancer-fighting community that is stronger together.

"We are blessed. We are so blessed to have Keaton's," said Katie.

Thursday, May 2 is the "Big Day of Giving" for the Sacramento Region Community Foundation.

Keaton's Child Cancer Alliance is one of many groups that would be happy to accept donations online to keep their mission alive and expand their reach to include as many families as possible.

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