Missy Burner no longer sweats the small stuff.
After caring for a child with cancer and recovering from cardiac arrest, the little details just don’t get to Burner the way they once did.
“Look at Dalton,” said Missy, as her 12-year-old son ran by the Dalton Burner Foundation 50/50 Raffle at last Friday’s Kansas City Comets game. “He’s wearing one of his best sweaters, and sweat pants with a hole in the knees. There was a time when a trivial little thing like that would have bothered me. But now, I just say, ‘Let’s go to the game and have some fun.’ And that’s what we do.”
Dalton was 5 when he was diagnosed with extraskeletal myxoid chondrosarcoma, a cancerous tumor in the soft tissue of his calf in October 2010. He underwent surgery and the tumor was removed in May 2011.
After several rounds of cancer treatment and subsequent surgical procedures, no new tumors have been discovered and the Moreland Ridge Middle School sixth grader is winning his fight against the rare disease.
Along with members of his family, one special friend has been by Dalton’s side throughout his cancer treatment and recovery – Kansas City Comets defender Brian Harris, who scored the winning goal in the team’s 2014 MISL championship game.
When Harris was 7, growing up outside of St. Louis in Edwardsville, Ill., he lost his best friend to cancer.
“I was just a little kid and it had a major impact on my life, losing Nicholas to cancer,” said Harris, who makes a point of visiting with Dalton and his family after each Comets home game. “A few years back, someone from the Comets said there was a little kid with cancer and wanted to know if a player would visit him. Danny (Waltman, the team’s former goalie and Harris’ roommate on the road) and I went down to Children’s Mercy Hospital to see Dalton.”
The trip was a life changing experience for both Harris and the youngster who was battling for his life. At the time, Harris was bald as he had his head shaved following a rookie hazing incident. Burner was immediately attracted to the UMKC graduate, because he had lost his hair because of his cancer treatment.
“I’ll never forget,” Missy said, “when Danny and Brian got there Dalton was asleep and I thanked them for coming and said, ‘Maybe you can come back when he’s feeling better.’ They didn’t leave. They waited quite awhile for him to wake up and they visited with him and you could see how excited Dalton was, even though he was not feeling that well at that time.
“As they were leaving, Brian told me, ‘Anything I can do for Dalton, just let me know.’ And he meant it.”
Dalton calls Harris one of his best friends, and they do the type of things best friends do, even if they are separated by 18 years.
“In a lot of ways, Brian is a bigger kid than I am,” Dalton said, as he sat on the railing at the Silverstein Eye Centers Arena after a Friday night loss to the Florida Tropics. “He likes video games and going to play laser tag as much as I do. We talk on the phone and talk about stuff and have a good time. He’s not like an adult to me, he’s a friend.”
Harris, who is visiting with some fans in the stands following the game, becomes animated when he spots Dalton.
He sprints down the stairs to the railing, hops over it onto the field and immediately messes up Dalton’s hair.
“I love that kid,” said Harris. “His friendship, and getting to know his family, is so important to me I can’t really put it into words. When he was younger, I’d call him and it was like, ‘Yeah, uh huh, okay, goodbye.’ Now, we carry on conversations and I can’t believe I’m talking to a 12-year-old. I think so much about Nicholas and how I lost him when I was Dalton’s age, and it almost seems like it was fate that I would become a part of Dalton’s life and he would become a part of mine.”
For years, they sported the same haircuts. As Dalton’s hair grew out, Harris let his hair grow out, to match that of his new best buddy.
"Dalton is my hero," said Harris, who works tirelessly for the Dalton Burner Foundation. "I know what it's like to lose someone to cancer, and Dalton is an inspiration to me and everyone he meets.
"He and Missy have done a great job with their foundation and anything I can ever do to help I will.”
At last Friday’s game, Missy staffed a table where fans could buy tickets to the Dalton Burner raffle. Several of her friends and board members went through the stands selling tickets, so the foundation can continue to help people whose families have been affected by cancer.
“We went through some tough times,” said Missy, who was diagnosed with a cardiac arrest episode just a few months after Dalton’s cancer was discovered. “Dalton’s last tumor was removed in March of 2011 and I suffered from cardiac arrest in April of 2011 and spent three weeks in the hospital. We could not have made it as a family if we hadn’t had a lot of help, and that’s why it’s so important for us to help others who are going through the same thing we went through as a family.
“And with the help of Brian and the Comets we are able to raise some funds that make life just a little bit easier for people who are really suffering. The suffering is real. I’ve been there and dealt with it, and if we can give just a little something back, we’re going to do it.”
As she talks about the foundation, Dalton runs by, wearing that Sunday-best sweater and holey sweatpants.
Mom doesn’t say a thing. She just smiles and shakes her head.
It’s going to take a lot more than a few miss-matched pieces of clothing to rattle Missy Burner.
The Dalton Everett Burner Foundation
The Dalton Everett Burner Foundation is committed to supporting pediatric hematology and oncology families with financial assistance as they face the hardships of battling childhood cancer.
It is located in the Kansas City area but we help families nationwide with expenses and bills related to treatment. Funds to help families come solely from fundraisers and other events. When the funds aren’t there the foundation has to turn families away. The events not only raise funds, but also raise awareness for childhood cancer. The foundation accepts donations from individuals or corporations.
Donations can be made using PayPal by clicking on the donate button on the website, www.tdebf.org. If you know of a family who has been affected by childhood cancer and is struggling with the financial aspects of their child’s diagnosis, please refer them to our foundation