Support for a local teenager who has an inoperable brain tumor is making a splash around the world. It began when Daytona Beach Speed Swimming did a group cannonball to help cheer up their teammate, Kayne Finley, 17, of Ormond-by-the-Sea, who was diagnosed with cancer last Thanksgiving.
The idea for the group cannonball came from Kayne’s mother, Kirsten, who said she woke up at 5:30 in the morning and texted Coach Steve Lochte to suggest it as a way to lift Kayne’s spirits.
The “cannonball” trend was taken up by other swim teams and colleges, and cannonballs have been posted on social media at #cannonballsforkayne from all over the world.
Now, a local event, Cannonballs for Kayne, is planned for Feb. 11 at the Ormond Beach YMCA and the community can take part.
Anyone who wants to show support for Kayne, including corporate teams, are invited. Schmancy Pops, Southern State of Mind and Vitamina T — Tacos on Wheels food trucks will donate a percentage of their sales to the cause.
“It’s cool and crazy good,” Kayne said about the cannonballs and support he has received.
“It’s good to know people that don’t know you are praying for you.”
Kayne says the point of the upcoming event is to bring the community together.
“I want to spread awareness of my story,” he said. “So little is known about pediatric brain cancer.”
‘He keeps our spirits up’
“Pray for me,” Kayne said when he first learned his diagnosis. The Spruce Creek High School senior is currently undergoing a series of radiation treatments at UF Health Shands Hospital in Gainesville. He returns to home for weekends after receiving treatment for the cancer, DIPG (diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma) is one of the most aggressive and rare of the pediatric types.
Kayne is in charge of his medical decisions and attends the meetings with doctors.
“It’s my life,” he said. “I’m the one that decides.”
At the onset of the disease, Kayne lost hearing in his left ear, his left eyelid would not close all the way, and the left side of his smile “did not operate,” Kayne said. But radiation has relieved the symptoms of the tumor and Kayne can now smile and almost close his eye. He still cannot hear or taste on the left side.
Radiation shrinks the tumor, but it likely will return within months, doctors have told the family. No effective chemotherapy has been found. The family plans to take part in a clinical trial in Cincinnati with medicine after the radiation treatment.
Kayne is working with his school guidance counselor on a plan to complete the courses he needs for the spring semester.
“I’m definitely graduating,” he said.
His dad, Curtis, said Kayne’s strength has helped the whole family.
“He keeps our spirits up,” he said.
How the cannonballs started
The idea for the community event came from Ryan Ochipa, owner of State Farm Insurance Agency, 785 W. Granada Blvd., who learned about Kayne because his son also swims on Daytona Beach Speed.
“When I was 17, my father was diagnosed with a brain tumor,” Ochipa said. “I remember being scared, but more clearly I remember being concerned because I did not know how to react to what was happening.”
He reached out to Schmancy Pops, owned by local teen entrepreneur Joseph Cofer, and Cofer and his mother, Kellie, have been helping promote the event.
The Ochipas and the Cofers believe a community event will allow neighbors, businesses and friends to offer support for Kayne and his family.