MILTON, Ga. — A cycling event and St. Baldrick’s Shave-A-Thon March 18 at Olde Blind Dog in Crabapple will honor the memory of Kiersten Dickson, a former server at the restaurant and beloved daughter, who lost her battle to cancer just three days before her 21st birthday in June 2015.
Seven doctors at three different practices were unable to find the cause of 19-year-old Kiersten Dickson’s bronchitis-like symptoms that wouldn’t go away.
She was otherwise healthy, a soccer player who had earned a scholarship to play at the University of West Georgia. But a CT scan finally revealed the problem — Kiersten’s lungs were riddled with cancerous tumors which had spread throughout her body.
Kiersten was diagnosed with stage 4 small cell lung cancer, a terminal diagnosis.
Her father, John, said after Kiersten was made aware of the severity of the cancer, she accepted that the disease would ultimately end her life. He said while most people change drastically when given such news, Kiersten remained the same, joyful, energetic, charming young woman she always had been.
“She did not become a different person,” John said. “She stayed relentlessly positive. Kiersten didn’t know a stranger, she was a friend to anyone and everyone.”
Kiersten went out of her way to befriend new students and helped special needs students by pushing their wheelchairs, carrying their books or just talking to them while attending high school at Sequoyah and later at West Georgia and Georgia State, John said.
“She won over everyone with her personality and goofy charm,” he said.
Kiersten began chemotherapy treatment for her lung cancer at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. During her treatment, which Kiersten understood was likely just buying her a little bit more time, she noticed something that unsettled her.
Many children were also sharing in her battle against cancer, most very young and without the emotional support of a close-knit family such as hers. Though she knew her time was limited, she had her parents, John and Shawn, vow to keep her legacy alive by fighting the menace of pediatric cancer.
In 2016, Kiersten’s parents created the Kiersten Dickson Memorial Cancer Research Fund in an effort to support the severely underfunded studies of pediatric cancer. According to St. Baldrick’s Foundation, only 4 percent of federal cancer research funding is dedicated to pediatric research.
Dickson started the fund to support the parents of pediatric cancer patients who stay in the metro Atlanta area. To ensure that all the funds raised go to worthy causes, the Dickersons pay the fees associated with the charity out of their own pockets.
Before her diagnosis, Kiersten was a server at Olde Blind Dog in Milton, and for the second straight year, the restaurant will hold a benefit in conjunction with the St. Baldrick’s Foundation to keep Kiersten’s wishes to benefit children with pediatric cancer.
The St. Paddy O’Pedal Ride to Conquer Childhood Cancer will take place at Olde Blind Dog on March 18 and will include multiple cycling events and a shave-a-thon to benefit Kiersten’s fund and St. Baldrick’s.
A 6.5-mile family fun ride around Olde Blind Dog, a 25-mile social ride and 45-mile ride will begin at the restaurant and loop through North Fulton and Forsyth County before finishing back at the restaurant. The shave-a-thon will follow the cycling runs.
John Dickson said the event is a way to keep alive the memory of Kiersten and to make an effort that no parent has to go through the struggle he and his wife faced.
For information or to register for the event, visit www.bikereg.com/stpaddyopedal.