Brain cancer survivor and his school rally for cancer research

  • Written by Kim Haub
  • Published in Local
Keaton Wrenn, second from right, uses a stool to keep steady while singing with classmates at St. Benedict School in Seattle. Photo: Courtesy Wrenn family Keaton Wrenn, second from right, uses a stool to keep steady while singing with classmates at St. Benedict School in Seattle. Photo: Courtesy Wrenn family

SEATTLE - Keaton Wrenn is a funny, upbeat fourth-grader at Seattle’s St. Benedict School, who has to be reminded to slow down in the school halls.

The 9-year-old is also a brain cancer survivor.

At St. Benedict’s, Keaton receives help and encouragement from his classmates and the school staff, who are joining the family’s efforts to raise money for pediatric cancer research.

“The support from the school has been outstanding,” said Keaton’s mother, Lisa Wrenn. “There’s a strong can-do spirit here,” said his father, Chris Wrenn.

When Keaton was just 16 months old, he underwent aggressive treatment for a highly malignant medulloblastoma that spread down his spinal column. “His chance for survival was abysmal,” his mother said. “That is the word I read over and over.”

Keaton survived the cancer, but the treatment left him with challenging side effects, including the need to use a walker at times. “Walking, speech and basic activities that most people take for granted, take more time, thought and effort for Keaton,” Chris Wrenn said.

To help Keaton get around school more easily, staff members place walkers at the top and bottom of stairways and sign up to assist him as he goes from class to recess or lunch. Students also help Keaton get between classes when no stairs are involved.

Again this year, the school community is supporting the family’s efforts to raise money for pediatric brain tumor and cancer research at Seattle Children’s Hospital.

Keaton crosses the finish line

Keaton Wrenn, a brain cancer survivor and student at St. Benedict School in Seattle, crosses the finish line in the 2013 Run of Hope Seattle, which raises money for pediatric cancer research. Keaton’s mustache was painted by his sister Mason, who does face-painting in the “Team Keaton” tent on race day. Photo: Courtesy Wrenn family


Last year, 20 St. Benedict families donated to “Team Keaton” or joined the annual Run of Hope Seattle to benefit the Pediatric Brain Tumor Research Fund. “I hope that this will be a tradition for us all at St. Benedict,” said Shirley Briones, Keaton’s physical education teacher. She is gathering a group of teachers, staff and families to participate in this year’s Sept. 28 event, which Lisa Wrenn is helping organize.

Over the past five years, the Wrenn family’s efforts have helped raise more than $20,000 for the research fund. This year’s goal is $5,000. “Keaton is still with us because of the generosity of families who came before us,” said Chris Wrenn, who serves on the Family Advisory Council at Children’s. He said he wants to help future children and families by raising money for research leading to treatments without toxic side effects.

Keaton said he wants other kids to have a chance to play games like he does. “Cancer can happen to any child,” he said.

When Keaton, his sister Mason (a St. Benedict’s seventh-grader) and their parents participate in the Run for Hope this year, they will be joined by Brian Anderson, St. Benedict’s principal, and his family.

“Keaton helps our school,” Anderson said. “He teaches us lessons in perseverance and courage.”

Run for Hope
The sixth annual Run of Hope Seattle takes place Sept. 28 at Seward Park, 5895 Lake Washington Blvd. S., Seattle: Run of Hope Seattle

Read more about Keaton’s story: www.runofhopeseattle.org/kid-stories.html

Donate to Team Keaton: www.firstgiving.com/team/269787

Brain storm
Lisa Wrenn read the book “Parker’s Brain Storm” to her son Keaton’s class to help his classmates understand why he has trouble with speech and gross motor skills. See a video of the book: www.cbtf.org/learn/parkers-brain-storm-video.

Sept. 24, 2014