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Article updated: 10/11/2013 7:20 PM

Fundraiser helps Wheaton family combat cancer

By Joshua Welge

Ross MacNeill asked his family to grant him two last wishes before he passed away.

He made them promise they would never let another child endure what he did. And he made them promise they would care for the homeless.

"It was simple to us," said his mom, Kim MacNeill. "We made the promise to him and we keep our promises."

True to their word, shortly after 11-year-old Ross of Wheaton died on May 13 from a malignant brain tumor, the MacNeills started the Ross K. MacNeill Foundation, fighting pediatric brain cancer and homelessness.

From 9 a.m. until 9 p.m. Saturday at Center Ice of DuPage in Glen Ellyn, the Admirals hockey organization that Ross played for will sponsor an "Orange and Pink at the Rink" event, with all donations going toward the Ross K. MacNeill Foundation and organizations fighting breast cancer.

The event is significant in many ways.

In addition to being a devoted hockey player and Chicago Blackhawks fan, Ross' favorite color was orange.

According to the Children's Brain Tumor Foundation, 28,000 children are living right now with a diagnosis of a primary brain tumor. Every day in the U.S., 10 children's families will learn their child has a brain tumor.

The MacNeills received the shocking news July 3, 2009, following a seemingly innocent MRI when Ross was experiencing occasional headaches playing travel hockey. The night of the diagnosis, Ross was taken to Children's Memorial Hospital, and the MacNeills' journey began.

"It is impossible to describe how life-shattering that phone call is," Kim said. "We want to do whatever we can to get that number from 10 kids diagnosed every day to 0."

Cancer was how Ross died, after a four-year battle. In life, Kim said her son "lived his 11 years beautifully and selflessly." His eyes never looked past the less fortunate.

Kim recalled a drive through downtown Wheaton, passing a homeless person. On their way back home, Ross asked if they could bring the man a muffin the next day. From then on, Ross wished to always give the homeless he came across whatever he had. A dollar here, a snack in the car or muffin from home there.

"Homelessness through Ross' eyes was a simple thing. He would say, 'They are just people like me without what I have,'" Kim said. "That moment, it completely changed our family's perspective."

The foundation's efforts to fight homelessness are local, as it supports DuPage Public Action to Deliver Shelter. The MacNeills' fight against pediatric brain cancer starts with increasing awareness, funding and urgency, and a commitment to raise money and invest in promising research.

Kim asks if one could wave "an ultimate wand," which 10 children would a person pick to be diagnosed with cancer every day? Or could a person tell 10 kids every day they had cancer?

"You are joining us if you are uncomfortable with that statistic," Kim said. "Our son gave his life to this cause. We are going to fight pediatric cancer and homelessness with everything we got."

An online donation page at www.r33m.org will be available soon. Until then, donations can be sent to The Ross K. MacNeill Foundation, PO Box 333, Wheaton IL 60187.

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