“Bend Your Knees!”
by Laura Braddick firstname.lastname@example.org
That’s the cry 11-year-old Collins Dixon shouts whenever his older brother goes up for a free throw.
“When my son (Ronnie Chastain, 14,) would shoot fouls, he always missed,” said the boys’ mother, Robin Dixon. “The coach told him to bend his knees.”
So when the crowd goes silent at the North Georgia Heat youth basketball games, Collins proudly reminds his brother what to do before he takes the shot.
“The moms do it when he’s not there,” Mrs. Dixon said.
With these three words, Collins and his cry of encouragement have become an inspiration to communities throughout Cherokee County and beyond.
In early March, Collins, a sixth-grader at R.M. Moore Elementary School, was admitted to Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta at Scottish Rite after suffering from dizziness, fatigue and vomiting for about two weeks.
After a CT scan, doctors discovered Collins had a Glioblastoma brain tumor, an aggressive form of cancer that occurs in only 3 percent of childhood tumors.
Doctors were able to remove 67 percent of the tumor with surgery, and Collins recently returned to his home north of Canton with his mother and father, Bob Dixon.
From day one, Mrs. Dixon said, the support for Collins and the family has been beyond overwhelming.
“He had a nurse who has been there for 12 years that told us she’s never seen so many visitors for one patient,” Mrs. Dixon said.
The family received calls from teachers and principals from both R.M. Moore and Teasley Middle School. Some high school principals sent a care package.
A group of middle school students at the Dixons’ church, First Baptist Church of Canton, raised money to buy Collins an Apple iPad.
“He was so excited when he got that, he said he thought he was going to hyperventilate,” Mrs. Dixon said.
She said he plays the song, “Heart of a Champion,” which was written for a stage 4 cancer patient, over and over again on the iPad.
The song’s writer, Corbette Jackson, visited Collins in the hospital.
Sunday school teachers and church members also brought food and gift cards for the family.
Collins’ story became a movement when Jessica Johnson, a friend of his brother, Sonny Age, created the “Bend Your Knees 4 Collins” bracelets.
More than 400 red-and-white bands later, there is a back order.
“Churches we don’t even know have asked to sell them as fundraisers,” Mrs. Dixon said. “People are inspired by him.”
Being the youngest of six siblings, Collins has always had a competitive spirit, which made him a natural athlete.
Last year in fifth grade, he was invited to play football for the Cherokee Junior Warriors – a sixth-grade team.
“He’s so easily coached and loved and liked by all,” his coach Shawn Finch said. “You can tell him to do something, and he will smile from ear to ear then go out and do it.
Collins’ dream is to play for the University of Georgia, but the doctors said football would be out of the question.
“We still believe in a miracle,” Mrs. Dixon said, “that he’ll one day get to play again.”
Finch, who is also the student minister at First Baptist Canton, said like a lot of the church members he was upset when he heard about Collins’ diagnosis.
“The situation almost made me mad – why this had to happen to a kid like Collins,” he said. “But I’ve never heard him complain once. He is a phenomenal young man.”
The determination he practiced in sports has helped him through this experience, his mother said.
“I’d be so low if it weren’t for the strength he’s shown,” Mrs. Dixon said.
Collins on Friday began a six-week round of radiation and chemotherapy as part of a clinical trial to study safe radiation levels for children with this form of cancer.
As he moves into treatment, Collins and his family know there is an entire community behind him on bended knees.
“I refuse to believe God’s through with him,” Mrs. Dixon said. “God can use him from here on forward.”