Fort Wayne cancer survivor owes his life to Riley Hospital

FORT WAYNE, Ind.(WANE) – Fort Wayne teenager Keithan Birch is a cancer survivor who says he owes his life to Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis.

NewsChannel 15 began following Keithan almost a dozen years ago when he was diagnosed with Desmoplastic Medulloblastoma, a rare form of brain cancer.

Keithan endured a 14-hour brain surgery when he was a toddler at Riley Hospital. Chemotherapy followed for years.

“I had to go through the pain of thinking I would not survive,” Keithan said.

Now at 14, Keithan is cancer free and part of a stem cell study. The study is one of many that is conducted to help pediatric patients at Riley who suffer from cancer and other diseases.

Dr. Merv Yoder is The Director of the Wells Center for Pediatric Research at Riley, Dr. Merv Yoder, said federal funding for studies and research programs has dwindled recently so the hospital is relying more on philanthropic support.

“You can’t charge for research as you can for patient care and other services,” Yoder said. “So we have to get grants or we have people donate to research.”

Since 2014, Global Health Systems Inc., has been holding a fundraiser in Indianapolis to benefit research at Riley. The event is called Reason to Dance Reason for Hope. It is a dance competition modeled after ‘Dancing With The Stars’ but in this contest community leaders, referred to as celebrities, raise money for Riley. The celebrity who raises the most wins.

Global Health CEO Damon Greeley said the dancing is a fun way to highlight the hard work the celebrities put into fundraising,  “We team them up with professionals and they learn two dance routines,” Greeley said.

This year, NewsChannel 15’s Terra Brantley and former Komets Captain Kaleigh Schrock will represent Fort Wayne. They are two of eight celebrities who will compete. The dance is Friday, Mar. 10 in Indianapolis at the Indiana Roof Ballroom.

Collectively, the eight dancers are trying to raise $100,000 for Riley Hospital. The fundraiser brought in almost $70,000 last year and and approximately $30,000 in 2014.

Brantley and Shrock are learning routines from two instructors at the Fort Wayne Ballroom Company.