Marysville News

The Voice contestant headlines fundraiser

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Sixteen-year-old cancer patient Devon Burke has endured a lot in the last five months. This week, an upcoming concert in his honor has given the teenager something to look forward to.

"I'm thankful that the community is coming together to do something for him," his mother, Annie Johnson, said.

Burke was diagnosed with Ewing's sarcoma, a rare form of bone cancer, in November.

"It's life-changing," Johnson said.

Former The Voice contestant Ryan Guisinger and his band will perform from 7-9 p.m. Saturday, April 19, at Marysville High School, 800 Amrine Mill Road.

"He's a strong, young kid and really funny," Guisinger said of Burke. The two met April 3, a day before Burke's latest round of chemotherapy at Nationwide Children's Hospital.

"He really was upbeat when I was there," Guisinger said.

But Johnson told Guisinger the treatments have been rough on her son.

When Guisinger asked Burke his age, Burke said he was 15. Then his mother reminded him he'd just had a birthday a few weeks ago.

"I thought, 'What kid doesn't remember his 16th birthday?' That just touched my heart," Guisinger said.

"His mom said he had been depressed and wanted to quit treatments, but my visit lifted his spirits."

"After Ryan left, he was smiling. He wanted to see the pictures of him and Ryan together," Johnson said.

Guisinger is from Milford Center and when his cousin Amy Flach -- a good friend of Johnson's -- called, he jumped in to help. Flach and five other women formed a committee to plan the concert.

Tonya Knox chairs the committee. Her children have been best friends with Burke for nearly five years.

Knox and her friends starting talking in January about how to help Burke and his family. Knox said neither of Burke's parents have jobs that offer paid leave. Devon is the oldest of five children.

"The biggest financial burden is lost wages," Knox said.

The goal of the concert is to raise money for the family. Knox said even with health insurance, there are still plenty of medical expenses. Hospital stays for treatment last six days at a time, so his parents face travel expenses as well as child-care costs.

Guisinger and his band are waiving their performance fee, and Marysville High School is donating the use of the auditorium. Knox said 100 percent of the proceeds will go to the family.

Tickets cost $10 each and can be purchased at Marysville, Fairbanks and North Union high schools and at Cue Stick Cafe, Lucky's, Salon 122 and Lee's Sports Bar in Plain City.

But attending the concert isn't the only way to help.

Knox said a fund has been set up at Huntington National Bank. Anyone can walk in and make a donation to the Blue4Burke account.

Burke's prognosis is positive so far.

"He's doing good. He had surgery on Valentine's Day. They removed the tumor and replaced it with a cadaver bone and a rod," Johnson said. "He's just now getting to where he's able to walk without crutches."

Burke has completed nine rounds of chemo and has eight more to go; the treatments make him feel sick and sleepy.

Johnson said Burke should be able to attend the concert as long as he feels well enough. His next treatment is scheduled for April 21.

Guisinger's visit and the upcoming concert have helped Burke's outlook.

"Any time someone reaches out, it lifts his spirits. He kind of feels alone when he's here all day," Johnson said. "Everybody else is at school and he's at home. His friends are able to do things and he's not."

Friends say Burke is typically an upbeat person.

"He's an amazing kid. I enjoy having him around. Outgoing, funny, polite. I hate to see him getting down in the dumps and feeling that way," Knox said.

"We're trying to make this a celebration of fighting cancer more than a fundraiser. He doesn't want people to feel sorry for him," she said.

Johnson said she is feeling the stress of her son's illness, but the people who have stepped up to help have been a blessing.

"I'm thankful for the people we're surrounded by who have helped us through it," Johnson said. "I'm proud of him. He's matured a lot through everything."

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