Area boys to participate in 19th annual Saddle Up Trail Ride

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Shown are Marshall Coker and Denver Shuttlesworth. | Submitted photo

Sandy Hollinger and Karen Coker’s aim is to give back to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital because the Memphis, Tenn. institution has given them so much already.

They’ll be able to do so this coming weekend as the 19th annual Saddle Up Trail Ride will be held at Buford and Wayne Strength’s place in Goodway. The fundraiser is held each year to raise money for St. Jude. Last year, more than $25,000 was raised. This year, that goal is $30,000.

For Hollinger and Coker, this event is particularly special because their children have benefited greatly from St. Jude.

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Hollinger’s son, Denver Shuttlesworth, is suffering from neuroblastoma and has been at the hospital for the last three years. Neuroblastoma is a cancer that develops from immature nerve cells found in several areas of the body, according to the Mayo Clinic. It most arises in and around the adrenal glands, having similar origins to nerve cells that sit atop the kidneys. Additionally, the cancer can develop around the abdomen and in the chest, neck and near the spine.

Hollinger said in recent years, they weren’t able to attend the annual event but this year that isn’t the case.

“When we have this each year, we’re usually there at St. Jude’s,” she said. “We’re home and are able to participate this year.”

Coker’s son, Marshall, had non B-Cell Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma, which is a type of cancer that starts in cells called lymphocytes, which are part of the body’s immune system, according to the American Cancer Society.

Coker said Marshall spent some four months at St. Jude going through chemotherapy and is in remission right now. He goes back once a month for check ups.

Shuttlesworth is still in treatment and has to go back every three weeks for treatment.

Through it all, it’s been Hollinger and Coker’s faith that’s helped them through this process.

For Coker, she knows that it was God telling her to get Marshall to the hospital after an accident at school injured his shoulder.

Both Hollinger and Coker, along with their sons, have bonded while at St. Jude. They said their sons have received excellent care at the Memphis, Tenn. hospital.

“The boys knew each other from school (Huxford Elementary),” Hollinger said. “Karen and I didn’t know each other. We were able to show them around the hospital.

“When you arrive at St. Jude, you have a guide,” she said. “We were there for each other, and the boys bonded even more then. We were able to do dinners together while being there and check on each other.”

Coker said it’s like a family at the hospital.

“You become a family there,” she said. “You have friends and they offer so much for their patients.”

St. Jude is a research hospital that depends on donations. The hospital specializes in helping defeat childhood cancer. The hospital has three floors of operation for different types of cancer — leukemia, bone marrow transplantation and a solid tumor floor. Recently, St. Jude opened a new wing at the hospital in September.

“They don’t want their families to have to worry about bills while there, so they provide housing and food to the families,” Hollinger said. “The patient gets extra special care. We can’t say enough.”