Fleetwood teen Austin Conrad raises $18,000 to find a cure for Desmoid Tumors

Patriot photo by Lisa Mitchell Corinne and Austin Conrad, 17, Fleetwood, hosted the 5th annual Fall Festival at Kutztown Fairgrounds on Sept. 22 which raised funds for Austin's Research Fund.

About 1,000 people raised about $18,000 for a Fleetwood teen's Fibromatosis Research Fund during the Fall Festival at Kutztown Fairgrounds Sept. 22.

The research fund was started by Austin Conrad.

The Fleetwood High junior, 17, has been battling Desmoid Tumors since he was 10 and he continues to fight this disease. Not wanting others to go through the same pain as himself, Austin wanted to raise funds to find a cure.

'Austin's doctor told us that there was little to no research done on this type of tumor,' said his mother Corinne Conrad.

She feels it is important to raise awareness about the disease 'because there are so many people that are misdiagnosed... you gotta learn about it because you could have it and not know it.'

Corinne encouraged people to get involved with raising awareness and raising funds for research to find a cure.

The Conrad family started fundraising in 2008 and handed over a check to The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia for $25,000 for CHOP to start conducting research. As of today, they have donated a total of $56,000 to CHOP for Desmoid Tumor research.

In 2011, they found an organization called Desmoid Tumor Research Foundation. Now all proceeds from the fundraiser will go to DTRF.

This was their fifth year hosting this event. They hosted a walk at the Bowers Park for two years and have grown since then and now moved the fundraising event to the Kutztown Fairgrounds, which included live entertainment by the Majestics and a local boys group Dane Becker and the Chameleons. There were craft and home show vendors, as well as children's games and crafts, raffles, a silent auction, and home made baked goods and lots of food. More than 80 cars and about 30 craft vendors participated. There was also a Walk for a Cure held early that morning at the fairgrounds.

What Austin likes about the annual event is seeing how many people are supportive.

'I hope nobody has to go through this disease because it can be life threatening and or could lose body parts. You could go through several surgeries to remove the tumor and then it re-grows and then repeats of surgery again. We need to find a cure or something to keep the tumors from growing,' said Austin

Austin has undergone two major surgeries where doctors removed 6-pound tumors each time. The last surgery he had, the tumor was attached to his sciatic nerve and it was very painful for him.

'We should not have to see our children go through such pain. He lost a lot of school after he had his surgeries due to physical therapy and lots of doctor appointments,' said Corinne. 'The hardest part of this is when you try to get answers of what his future will be and they cannot tell us because they don't know the outcome. I pray everyday that he will not loose his leg to this disease.'

The hardest part for the Berks Career Technology Center electrical student is not being able to play sports. Scar tissue, loss of mobility and loss of muscle prevent him from playing the sport he wants to play, soccer.

He sees himself becoming a lineman in the electrical field. He attends Berks Career Technology Center in Oley for Electrical.

His hobbies are playing Xbox and swimming and he enjoys learning about electrical work. He also works for Weis Markets in Kutztown.

'I have my learners permit and will drive my mom's Galant until I earn enough money to buy what I really want, which is a Dodge Ram 2500 Cummin Truck,' said Austin. 'I like cars and trucks, I also like to see what people do to make them look good. With Car Warriors they take two cars the same and have two teams design them in 48 hours (I can't even imagine) but it looks fun and very tiring. I like watching Car Warriors because I like to see what different cars they build and how they perform.'

Special guests were Kevin Reilly who is a former Philadelphia Eagles player who lost his arm to Desmoid Tumors and Ray McClelland who is on the show Car Warriors. McClelland also helped judge the car and motorcycle show.

'I've watched people struggle through life and I have a soft spot for any child who has any kind of illness or struggles in life and I try to do whatever I can to bring awareness and help them out,' said McClelland. 'This was a great opportunity to come out and hang out with friends.'

The Conrads expressed gratitude to everyone who attended the event and supported the cause.

'We can't thank you enough,' said Corinne.

She also thanked family, friends and everyone involved in making the event possible.

'A big, big 'thank you' from the Conrad family because it means so much,' said Corinne.

To make a donation make the checks out to Desmoid Tumor Research Foundation and mail it to Austin' Research Fund, P.O. Box 184, Fleetwood, PA 19522.

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