When people hear about diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma, do they know what it is? Kristina Maddox wants them to know.
The 22-year-old native of Auxvasse is trying to create awareness of DIPG through a unique means - a racing car. Kristina is a interactive digital media major at North West University in Maryville. She recently used her talents to design a racing car for the Toyota Racing Sponsafy Your Ride contest. She had Zach Tally in mind when designing the car and how very few people even know about the cancer that took his life.
Tally was diagnosed with DIPG on June 6, 2008, and passed away on July 8, 2009, when he was only 7-years-old, just completing the first grade at Auxvasse Elementary School.
"Auxvasse is a really small town, so we know everyone and he was just a big part of our community," Kristina said. "His disease really touched a lot of us."
Through the online contest, people can vote for their favorite racing car. The top 10 cars will be featured on TV during the Nascar Sprint All-Star race. The top car design will be made into an actual racing car and compete. Voters have until about March 21 to go online (www.sponsafier.com/share/45003) and vote for the car. There is no cost. Kristina picked North Callaway Thunderbird green for the base of her car, since Tally was an avid baseball player. She also wrote "DIPG Warriors" and "Zac Attack" on the car in memory of Tally.
Kristina is a friend of Tally's family and hopes her design may increase DIPG awareness even if in a small way.
"It would be amazing to win and get to promote it on that national platform," she said, "but I also know just how much it means to everyone at home."
Tally's mother, Chrystal Terrell, said she was "honored" and "excited" about what Kristina was doing. Terrell said the inoperable and incurable cancer that took her son is such a rare disease that there's not a lot of funding or research available. DIPG is a tumor that develops in the middle of the brain stem. It usually affects children between the ages of 5 and 10 and once diagnosed, the child usually has less than a year to live.
Tally's twin brother, Tyler, and two other siblings, Meagan and Brandon, attend Auxvasse Elementary, where Brenda Maddox, Kristina's mother, works as the school secretary. Brenda said Tally was "a typical first-grader, ornery, very well-liked, very well-known."
"He was just really outgoing," Brenda said.
"Anybody that knew Zach loved Zach," Terrell said.
She said the community and area schools "really pulled together" with fundraisers and support during her family's time of need.
"Without our community, there's no way we would have made it," Terrell said.