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Leaving competitors in her wake

Local wakeboarder raises funds for fight against DIPG

by Bob Martin
Sports Reporter - Gilford Steamer, WInnisquam Echo, Meredith News

Kira Livernois won her division in the Winniskiathon earlier this month. Courtesy Photo. (click for larger version)
August 14, 2017
GILFORD— Kira Livernois may only be seven years old, but she sure knows how to ride a wakeboard.

On Aug. 5 Livernois took first place in the under 12 division of the seventh annual Winniskiathon, but more importantly, she helped raise more than $3,000 for The Cure Starts Now- an organization devoted to seeking a cure for a rare form of brain cancer found in children called Diffuse intrinsic pontine gliomas (DIPG.)

"We are still collecting at this point, and some people are mailing checks, but it is definitely more than $3,000 raised," said Kira's mother, Tracey Livernois.

The disease hits close to home in the Lakes Region, when seven-year-old John Bradley Thompson of Gilford died of DIPG on April 9, 2014, less than a year after he was diagnosed. The Livernois family, which hails from Meredith, are friends of the Thompsons as Kira's brother Hayes and John Bradley were friends. Ironically, Hayes and John Bradley waterskied together when they were about four years old.

The Winniskiathon was created by Guy Nickerson, and was centralized out of the Winnipesaukee Yacht Club in Gilford. He explained that it is a throwback to the 1970s, where there were waterski marathon events on Lake Opechee and Lake Winnipesaukee. Nickerson said seven years ago, he and some friends decided to do a marathon and they had others who followed their lead.

He said Winnipesaukee Yacht Club made it a formally hosted event, and they received permits from Marine Patrol to run the marathon. This year's event attracted 14 skiers of all ages, Nickerson said, but Kira was the only one who was wakeboarding.

"It has been a lot of fun the last seven years," said Nickerson. "Each year there seems to be more interest."

Ben Topliff took first in the 28-mile run and Frank Cook was first in the 14-mile run.

This was the first time that Kira was involved, and Tracey Livernois believed she was the youngest child to take part in the event's history. She had the fourth best overall time in the 14-mile run.

Livernois said that Kira amazingly went 14 miles without falling, except for a minor hiccup at the very beginning of the race. She went from Saunders Bay to Parker Island and back. Livernois said it was extremely choppy that day, which made her feat even more impressive. She explained that Kira has been skiing and wakeboarding since she was three years old, and that as a family they like to waterski during the summers.

"She had a great time," Livernois said. "She enjoyed doing it and was very proud of herself. It was a huge accomplishment for a seven-year-old. It was really wavy. There were a few adults that didn't even finish. The conditions weren't ideal at all."

Livernois said that this is the first time they had their own fundraiser for The Cure Starts Now, but they have always assisted in the other events the Thompson family has had in the past. She explained that they started raising funds via social media about a week beforehand, and was amazed about how much they were able to raise in such a short period of time.

"We didn't set a goal, we just decided to make it a fundraiser," said Livernois. "All the money we got exceeded any goal we would have had."

DIPG is a cancer that occurs in children that affects the brain stem and the central nervous system. It has an extremely high mortality rate, and the symptoms leading to death are awful. It includes the side of the face dropping, difficulty chewing and swallowing. The tumor is inoperable and less than 10 percent of children who have it live longer than 18 months after being diagnosed.

Jesse and Alison Thompson started the New Hampshire chapter of The Cure Starts Now. They have praised the organization over the years, as they bring doctors together and force them to collaborate. It is one of the fastest growing cancer foundations in the world, and Thompson said it is great because it has brought awareness to the not often talked about disease.

Thompson also agrees with doctors who have said that a cure for DIPG could lead to the cure to other, or all, cancers. For this reason, he has called it a "homerun cure."

For more information or to donate log onto thinkjohnbradley.com. For more information about The Cure Starts Now, log onto https://thecurestartsnow.org/.

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