While organizing a new event to support young individuals battling life-threatening illnesses, Sumner High School boys basketball coach Jake Jackson found out about one local Sumner School District student.
Camron Cozzi, a junior at Bonney Lake High School, was diagnosed with Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma (DIPG), a type of brain tumor that is inoperable, in December 2015.
“We’ve been collaborating since he was diagnosed,” Jackson said. “It’s very inspiring to hear him talk. His outlook is super positive.”
The Professional Speakers Series event, which Jackson said has been a dream of his to host since college, will feature four speakers who will present motivational talks. The event runs from 9 a.m. to noon Sunday (Oct. 2) at the Sumner High gymnasium.
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“We’ll have one (guest) speaking on grit, one speaking on mental condition and one speaking on persevering,” said Jackson, CEO of Sterling Athletics, a company in Puyallup that manufactures and sells custom sports balls and equipment which is also serving as the event’s main sponsor. “It’s really (about) life.”
Cozzi, 16, has lived in the Sumner area since he was born and has been playing lacrosse since fifth grade.
“I thought it was pretty cool,” Cozzi said when he heard about the event. “I liked the idea of it. It’s bringing awareness to (DIPG).”
It’s a hard cancer that nobody in history has beat. I try to stay positive because your mind can (affect) your body.
DIPG is a rare form of brain cancer that affects very few people and has a zero-percent survival rate, Jackson said.
“It’s a hard cancer that nobody in history has beat,” Cozzi said. “I try to stay positive because your mind can (affect) your body.”
In celebration of positive attitudes, Jackson chose to support Cozzi’s cause at the event, with all proceeds going to his family. Admission is $25, with donations welcome.
“We are inviting anyone and everyone, no matter your demographic,” Jackson said. “Every attendee will leave with more insight on life along with being a supporter of a young man who needs our assistance.”
Although DIPG is rare, added Jackson, there are have been others in the area diagnosed with it.
“(DIPG) is relevant to our area,” he said. “We’ve got to take care of a kid in our own backyard.”
(Jackson’s) ultimate mission is to raise awareness for Camron. The whole idea is to inspire and motivate and give people hope through a series of speakers.
Brett McDaniel, Dean of Students at Sumner High School
Brett McDaniel, the dean of students at Sumner High, is one of the speakers that will present at the event.
“(Jackson’s) ultimate mission is to raise awareness for Camron,” McDaniel said. “The whole idea is to inspire and motivate and give people hope through a series of speakers.”
McDaniel, along with his fellow speaker Collin Henderson, plans to talk about mental conditioning, working as a team and how to deal with diversity and challenges.
Greg Gard, the head men’s basketball coach at the University of Wisconsin and a close friend of Jackson, will also speak. Gard has known family and friends who have passed away from brain cancer, Jackson said.
Cozzi’s uncle, Kenneth McQuiston — a CEO, motivational speaker and military veteran — will speak at the event as well.
He’s a “really smart person,” Cozzi said.
Since Cozzi’s diagnosis, the Sumner and Bonney Lake communities have rallied behind him. Jackson plans for them to come together again Sunday at the Sumner High gymnasium.
“(Cozzi) has brought our entire community together,” Jackson said. “He’s touched a lot of people.”