Monday, June 25, 2018
Education

Friends, strangers come together to support Central grad battling non-Hodgkin's lymphoma

BROOKSVILLE — It was supposed to be a secret. Not that 2013 Central High School graduate Kasey Kupcik, 18, has been diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, but how her friends wanted to show their support.

When Central senior Gabby Tinari, 17, heard the news about her good friend, she was devastated. She wanted to do something. She needed to do something.

She talked to fellow volleyball members Sumner Karnow, 17, and Samantha Bishop, 17, both seniors, and they coordinated to dedicate the season's first volleyball game to Kasey. They wanted to present her with a framed card signed by the team on the gymnasium floor before the game.

Gabby wanted to surprise Kasey and asked her to attend the game.

"In the meantime, I texted her mom, boyfriend and a close friend to get her to the game," Gabby said.

But the secret got out, and soon people started tweeting the idea all over the place, using #greenforkasey, and it went viral within three hours. (Green is the ribbon color that represents non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.)

"People were messaging me from the U.K., New York, New Hampshire, Canada," Sumner said. "Some took photos and tweeted photos of themselves wearing green — people who don't even know her."

"It really went big," Gabby said.

"Twitter trending was over Miss America at one point," said Sumner. More than 500 people sent requests to follow Kasey on Twitter, Sumner said.

The game dedicated to Kasey was Sept. 16, between Central and Springstead, where, incidentally, Kasey's brother, Dustin Kupcik, is a football coach. With all the tweeting and texting going on, just about everyone wore green that night, even Springstead fans.

Kasey made it to the game and was escorted onto the floor.

"You got the goose bumps when everyone stood up," said girls volleyball coach Andrea Kneser. "Something like this changes people's lives. Kasey just inspires them."

"Everybody who knew her, and didn't, was very emotional," said Samantha.

Kasey had planned to attend Florida State University this fall to study information communication technology, but those plans are on hold.

"My mom and dad wanted me to focus on getting better," she said.

Kasey was the Florida DECA president her last year of high school. During that time, she played softball and managed, through dual enrollment courses, to finish high school with her college associate's degree.

She just finished Week 5 of chemotherapy and said she will need treatment every three weeks for about a year.

"It is the most curable cancer," she said, with a cure rate of 70 percent to 80 percent.

"I feel pretty good," she said.

Her friends, the tweeting and the dedication of the volleyball game all have been a huge boost.

"At first, it started with Central and Springstead," she said, "and then it went viral, and it was amazing. For all five Hernando (high) schools to get along for a day was amazing. It made everything seem so much easier and the fight so much more worth it."

Kasey is thankful for her strength.

"I'm 18 and very able to fight it," she said. "I'm just glad it was me and not someone's newborn or grandmother."

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