High school kicker inspires, supports local community
ASHLAND - Every Friday evening for three fall seasons, Denise Boyce stood outside Southern Boone High School’s football stadium with a fold-up table, some paper and a donation bucket.
“I have kids who come up and give me their change from the concession stand and it might just be a few quarters or a dollar, but they’re happy to give and excited about it,” Boyce said.
For the community of Ashland, donating money to special causes is no strange feat. Karen Anderson has lived in Ashland for twenty years and has seen it all.
“The community of Ashland has been wonderful in supporting people with illnesses and special needs,” Anderson said. “Their inclusion of people with difficulties of some sort has been incredible. It’s a great place to live.”
But one cause in particular has impacted the community, and it took one teen to do something about it.
"I've had family members affected by cancer. We've had kids in our school affected by it. So I felt passionate about the issue," said Parker Boyce, a senior at Southern Boone High School.
Since 2016, Boyce and his mom Denise have raised money for pediatric cancer through the Kick-It campaign, a program committed to funding research and raising awareness.
“Moms and their teenage boys don’t always have a lot of opportunities to maybe bond over things the way dad can go out there and kick with him,” Denise said. “We don’t do that but we have this to work together on.”
Over the last three seasons, Parker has raised $6,988 for Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation for Childhood Cancer. Through his web page, people can make a one-time donation or pledge a dollar amount for his points scored.
"My first ever game as a sophomore, varsity kicking, I scored 12 points, and that's when it really hit home, that I was making money for these kids, by kicking, and I was like 'wow I just made 36 dollars,'" Parker said.
His point goal for 2018 was 60, and with the season already ended, he surpassed that by scoring 80 points.
“It’s really important to this community and I think it’s on the forefront on their minds how important this is and touches all of our lives,” Denise said.
Southern Boone’s head football coach Trent Tracy has coached Parker for four years.
“All summer for the last four years he’s out here working on his craft of kicking on his own. I mean kickers are a special breed and you can be good as you want to be,” Tracy said.
Tracy said community support for football games and fundraising has grown over the years.
“Seeing the community support financially with Parker and donating money and pledging money for all the points that he scores through extra points and field goals is tremendous and that’s just one example of the community that steps forward and supports,” he said.
Kaitlynn Burbridge, one of Parker’s classmates at Southern Boone, was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer at the age of 14.
"I was at the point I didn't want to do anything, because I knew what would happen if I tried to get out of bed, or I tried to eat some food,” said Burbridge, an eighteen-year-old from Ashland, Missouri. “I was just emotionally exhausted at that point."
Anderson’s granddaughter, Elise York, was diagnosed with germ cell tumor cancer when she was one-year-old.
"It was a very emotional time for all of us. We were very fearful she was just a tiny baby and so perfect,” she said. "Every time we'd go to the hospital we'd see how she'd suffer through the treatments, and there were times she couldn't tolerate the treatments."
Now, both York and Burbridge are cancer-free.
"Even when [Elise] was sick, she would try to have bright eyes and she would smile, even if she was too sick to raise her head up," Anderson said.
"The feeling of being cancer-free, and knowing that I beat the hardest battle, that I didn't even know I would've ever had to fight through, it's not even like I've won an award,” Burbridge said. “It's hard to explain how grateful I feel but the word really is grateful."
Burbridge believes Parker’s campaign is special because most teenagers have different mindsets at this point in their lives.
"Going to college, and partying, you know, and being with your friends like that's what teenagers think of. They don't think, 'oh I should stand up against cancer today," Burbridge said.
Anderson said the families fighting cancer do not have the time to campaign or help find a cure.
"To have somebody like Parker, who is 17, and has his whole life ahead of him yet he's still interested in supporting these younger vulnerable people. It touches me a lot," Anderson said.
Pledges per point are allowed until November 30, even though Boyce's season has now officially ended. His web page, however, will remain open until the end of December for donations.
"I've really love raising this money for these kids, and I think it's a great way to make each point count a little more," Parker said.
“That's a big thing is, when you don't actually have cancer…but you still want to educate yourself about it, and still want to be a part of it,” Burbridge said. “That's a big thing."