Monday, November 12, 2018
Human Interest

Zephyrhills High rallys to support ‘the greatest kid,’ who’s in a fight for his life

ZEPHYRHILLS

There was a swelling of Bulldog Pride as students, many donning orange and black school colors and "I Run For Zack" T-shirts, flocked to the gymnasium for the afternoon pep rally at Zephyrhills High. ē The marching band played rousing tunes. The football team gathered on the gym floor. Cheerleaders flipped through their routines, and the bulldog mascot danced as students split into their respective clans to vie for the treasured "spirit stick," by making the loudest noise they could muster. Itís typical fare when gearing up for the season opener, which was Aug. 24 against Wiregrass Ranch High. ē But this wasnít just about football. This also was a rally of support for a fellow student who is in the fight of his life.

In June, a few weeks after his 18th birthday, senior Zackary Springfield was diagnosed with stage 4 Ewing Sarcoma, a rare and aggressive form of bone cancer. He had pain in his back for a while, said his mom, Mirtza Springfield, and a feeling of malaise that made it hard to get him out of bed in the morning. It wasnít like him. This was a kid who competed on the school cross country, track and soccer teams.

After a few medical visits, doctors discovered a mass on his right lung.

"We knew there was a 99 percent chance it was cancer, and it was," said his dad, Doyle Springfield.

Since his diagnosis, Zack has undergone chemotherapy treatments at John Hopkins All Childrenís Hospital in St. Petersburg to attack the cancer that had spread throughout his body, but not into his bone marrow.

With chemo comes side effects ó low blood counts that lead to transfusions, weakness and the loss of his hair. Zack has more rounds to go before starting a second protocol, and will take classes through a program for homebound students during his senior year.

Throughout it all, his spirit has been stellar, said his mom.

"Heís determined to fight it. He has a lot of faith in God," she said.

"Heís a fighter for sure," said former Tampa Bay Rays pitcher Trever Miller, who befriended Zack while visiting patients at All Childrenís with Rays player Grant Balfour. "Heís going to beat this cancer for sure."

ē ē ē

In a county booming with growth, Zack Springfield is small-town Zephyrhills all the way. His parents and his sister, Suzanne, 26, are grads of Zephyrhills High. His mom ran track, as did his sister.

"Heís probably one of the nicest kids Iíve ever met," said social studies teacher and cross country coach James Kretschmar. "Heís so polite. Ask him anything, and heíll do it."

"Heís one of those Ďyes, sir,í Ďno, sir,í kind of kids," said soccer coach John Soellner, adding that Zack has an open invitation to join the team on the sidelines during games even though he canít play. "I love keeping him around. His attitude is contagious. Never complains. Would try anything you ask him to. Heís a great kid. A great kid."

The community is behind him.

To help with medical expenses, the cross country coaches and team raised about $4,500 selling wristbands with the inscription "Zack Fights the Bone But Not Alone." A poker run sponsored by Creative Soulís Cafť raised approximately $3,500. In October, the cross county team, which helps organize the annual Rattle Snake Run, plans to donate proceeds that typically go to the team to the Springfield family.

Those efforts were about raising money, but there was support of another kind.

"Zackís dad mentioned that the family and some friends were going to shave their heads for Zack and asked if I would, too," Kretschmar said. "They were going to do it over the summer when Zack started chemotherapy, but I said, ĎLetís do it big and get support from the school. Letís wait for the first pep rally.í?"

ē ē ē

While students found their seats in the gymnasium, Zack hung out in the lobby with Trever Miller and his sister, who was snapping pictures with her dadís camera. His parents waited on stage, where his dad and others readied themselves for their extreme haircuts. Volunteer barbers came from Masseyís Barber Shop, Infusion Salon and 4/One The Gentlemenís Quarters.

"I donít have anything planned to say," Zack said. "Iím winging it ó just going with the flow. Iím not used to this. Iím one of those quiet kids."

Maybe not so much anymore.

As he was called up to the stage, he tipped his cap to the cheering crowd and danced across the floor.

"Zack was diagnosed with cancer, but that did not stop his spirit." Kretschmar told the crowd amid chants of "Go Zack!"

Zack shook hands with a bald Danny Wade, 16. The night before, he was the first classmate to get his a free shave. Then Zack took electric clippers and with a wide grin, made the first swipe at his dadís graying locks. He joked with his best friend, Seth Pelfrey, 17, who was getting his head shaved, along with his dadís long-time friend, Kevin Bahr, and coaches Kretschmar and Soellner.

Seth said he didnít mind losing his hair.

"Heís the greatest kid Iíve ever met," he said. "He always has a smile. Iíve never seen him down at all. We need more kids like him."

With that, Zack headed back out onto the gym floor to lead seniors in what would be their winning chant for the spirit stick.

"Just to see his energy was fun, a lot of fun to see him enjoying himself like that, because a lot of time he doesnít have the energy," said his clean-shaven dad. "He wonít be able to attend school for his senior year, so being able to plug himself into things that mean a lot to him is important. This is like one day that he gets"

Contact Michele Miller at [email protected] Follow @MicheleMiller52.

     
Comments
Hillsborough Sheriff's Office spurns ICE agreement but is still holding immigrants for the agency

Hillsborough Sheriff's Office spurns ICE agreement but is still holding immigrants for the agency

TAMPA — Ten months ago, Hillsborough Sheriff Chad Chronister stood among a dozen or so Florida sheriffs to announce a new arrangement with federal immigration officials to deal with a legal quandary.The new agreement with U.S. Immigration and ...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Congressman-Elect Dan Crenshaw visits Saturday Night Live to accept Pete Davidson’s apology

Congressman-Elect Dan Crenshaw visits Saturday Night Live to accept Pete Davidson’s apology

Last week on Saturday Night Live, Pete Davidson made the regrettable decision to make fun of Dan Crenshaw, a Republican Congressional candidate who lost an eye to an IED while serving in Afghanistan.
Published: 11/11/18
Amy Scherzer's Diary: Weekly Wrap-Up of the Tampa Social Scene

Amy Scherzer's Diary: Weekly Wrap-Up of the Tampa Social Scene

Amy Scherzer's Diary: Weekly Wrap-Up of the Tampa Social Scene
Published: 11/09/18
Judge okays wedding anniversary trip for Lakeland store owner facing murder charge

Judge okays wedding anniversary trip for Lakeland store owner facing murder charge

LAKELAND — A former Lakeland city commissioner charged with murder in the fatal shooting of a man he suspected of shoplifting is on house arrest, but that won't stand in the way of a weekend trip he had planned with his wife next month to Sava...
Published: 11/09/18
Live music picks: Travis Scott, R. Kelly, Brian Wilson, Christina Aguilera, more

Live music picks: Travis Scott, R. Kelly, Brian Wilson, Christina Aguilera, more

Travis Scott launches 'Astroworld,' Brian Wilson retires 'Pet Sounds' and R. Kelly faces protests at USF. Plus: Christina Aguilera, Simple Minds, Tanya Tucker, Joe Diffie, (Sandy) Alex G and more.
Published: 11/07/18
Four red-head facts to celebrate 'National Love Your Red Hair' day

Four red-head facts to celebrate 'National Love Your Red Hair' day

Nov. 5 is National Love Your Red Hair Day. To celebrate, we've collected four facts about red hair you should know.
Published: 11/05/18
Ribfest food lineup and music set times: Barenaked Ladies, Josh Turner lead the way

Ribfest food lineup and music set times: Barenaked Ladies, Josh Turner lead the way

Get the lowdown on when to get to Vinoy Park to see Los Lonely Boys, Chris Janson and Robby Steinhardt — and what night you can save the most money.
Published: 11/05/18
Nashville’s blue wave: 15 years after the Dixie Chicks, country artists make a liberal political shift

Nashville’s blue wave: 15 years after the Dixie Chicks, country artists make a liberal political shift

‘Liberal’ used to be a dirty word in country music. But today, more artists are speaking out on gun control, LGBTQ rights and immigration. And some are stumping for a Democratic wave on Election Day.
Published: 11/01/18
Live overseas? Wanna be a pilot? Try Brooksville's flight school.

Live overseas? Wanna be a pilot? Try Brooksville's flight school.

About 20 international students learn something unique at American Aviation Flight Academy, school leaders say.
Published: 10/31/18
This week’s best concerts: Ed Sheeran, Twenty One Pilots, Beats By the Bay and more

This week’s best concerts: Ed Sheeran, Twenty One Pilots, Beats By the Bay and more

Two of the world's most popular artists, Ed Sheeran and Twenty One Pilots, lead a busy week, including Keith Sweat, Fantasia, Dustin Lynch, Jonathan Davis, Jessie Reyez, David Lee Murphy and more.
Published: 10/31/18