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Hawkins plans ‘Spike Sarcoma’ tournament for November 23


By Aila Boyd



A little more than a year after receiving word that she had a rare form of soft tissue cancer, myxoid liposarcoma, Laini Hawkins, a Lord Botetourt High School sophomore, is busy planning a volleyball tournament, Spike Sarcoma, to raise awareness and money for pediatric soft tissue sarcomas.

When the diagnosis came last summer, it was roughly a month before she was supposed to enter high school. As a result of the diagnosis, her plan to join the school’s volleyball team was derailed.

But after an initial surgery at Carilion Hospital in Roanoke and a follow up surgery at Johns Hopkins Children’s Hospital in Baltimore, Md., she slowly but surely recovered both emotionally and physically.

She was ultimately able to manage the Lord Botetourt volleyball team and was even able to play on a traveling team. “I just started crying because it took a lot to get through the tryout,” Hawkins said of making the traveling team.

Now, she’s no longer confined to the sidelines during Lord Botetourt volleyball games.

Although it has been over a year since her last surgery, Hawkins still receives frequent scans, including detailed MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scans of her legs and full body and CT (computed tomography) scans of her chest, abdomen, and pelvis.

In recognition of the fact that September is National Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, she’s working diligently to make sure that her goal of raising $10,000 through Spike Sarcoma is a reality.

The money she raises will be donated to Carilion Pediatric Oncology and Johns Hopkins Pediatric Oncology for soft tissue sarcoma education and research. “They have worked incredibly well together,” Hawkins said of the two institutions. “There has been a lot of cooperation to make sure I get the treatment that I need.”

Because the type of cancer she has is so rare, Hawkins said that she’s extremely passionate about raising awareness. Soft tissue sarcomas, cancer that affects connective tissue such as muscles, tendons, ligaments, and the lining of blood vessels, can occur in any soft tissue in the body. Unlike other forms of cancer, hers was not able to be treated with chemotherapy.

Born out of a passion for helping people, Hawkins said that she talked with her doctors about ways that she could raise awareness and funds for the type of cancer that she has. “Sarcoma is underrepresented,” Hawkins said. “Not a lot of attention is given to it because it’s so rare.” Through the conversations that she had, the idea of incorporating her passion for volleyball into her fundraising efforts came about.

The tournament will take place on November 23 at 8 a.m. at Spectrum Sports Academy in Roanoke.

Leagues for the tournament include: co-ed adult, girl’s 18U, 17U, 16U, 15U, 14U, 13U, and 12U. Middle and high school teams must play in the division of their oldest player. The cost is $200 per team.

For more information about Hawkins and the tournament, visit: spikesarcoma.com.