Casey’s Cup Memorial Hockey Tournament is an annual fundraising event that was born out of a mother’s love.
In 2009, Traci Strale got news no mother should ever have to hear: her son, vivacious 12-year-old Casey Strale, was diagnosed with an advanced stage of Adrenal Cortical Carcinoma (ACC), a form of cancer.
ACC is caused by a cancerous growth in the adrenal cortex, on the outer layer of the adrenal glands. This kind of cancer is unthinkably rare for a child of 12, affecting only one or two in a million people, with a median diagnosis age of 44. As a dedicated student and an avid hockey player, it was unbelievable to friends and family that Casey, so young and active, could develop such an aggressive and uncommon form of cancer.
“Cancer doesn’t discriminate, it doesn’t care where you live, your religion, your net worth, how big your house is or who you know,” reminds Traci.
With his family, friends and teammates rallying around him, Casey fought hard to get better. All he wanted was to be a normal kid. Whenever he could, he got back into the rink and continued to skate for both The Rinks Irvine Inline and Anaheim Ice as a Jr. Duck. Through years of treatments, clinical trials and multiple surgeries, Casey’s love for hockey never wavered.
Despite his incredible and heroic will, Casey lost his battle with ACC on June 24, 2013 at the age of 16; however, his story is not one of tragedy, but rather one of determination and love. With the spirit of Casey in their hearts, his community has banded together to bring much needed awareness and financial support to ACC research. Because of its scarcity, little attention has been paid to the development of an effective treatment and cure.
“There has not been any change in the protocol for treating this disease since the 1960s,” explains Traci. “We need exposure, awareness … we just need some help. It’s just not acceptable that a child, any child, cannot be properly treated or saved. If we find a way to treat and extend these precious lives, then it also helps all other cancers down the line.”
Steadfast in her desire to save families from heartbreak, Traci set about to make an impact that would bridge the gap between ACC research and funding, honoring the memory of her brave son. This is how Casey’s Cup Memorial Hockey Tournament came to be.
“Casey’s Memorial Cup started with a conversation in my backyard with friend and tournament director Julie Ruff. We discussed how we could honor Casey’s memory and help others as well,” shares Traci.
“[We decided that] the funds would go toward research and clinical trials for his disease. We already had a foundation with the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen), an affiliate of City of Hope, that we started in 2009 when Casey was first diagnosed,” she explains. “We contacted TGen and [the] founder of the ACC Foundation, Troy Richards, and offered to raise additional funds for ACC. Everyone was on board and the planning began.”
TGen is regarded as a world-leader in translational genomic and proteomic cancer research — the study of genetic and protein drivers of disease.
“Without TGen’s specialized team of scientists and clinical partners discovering new treatments through translational science and clinical trials, there would be no hope for kids and adults taken victim like Casey,” discloses Traci.
Traci founded Casey’s Cup Memorial Hockey Tournament to not just bring awareness to the rare cancer that affected her family, but to support other nonprofits as well. This year, the tournament is supporting San Diego Ducks Sled Hockey, a sled hockey club for physically disabled youth and adults interested in pursuing local, national, international and Paralympic competition that’s recognized by USA Hockey, the NHL and U.S. Paralympics.
Casey’s Cup also partners with Team Niko, a nonprofit organization created after its namesake was diagnosed with leukemia in 2014. The team raises money to provide backpacks full of essentials for families and patients (Niko’s buddies) at Children’s Hospital of Orange County.
Casey was known as “The Game Changer, Life Changer” by his friends, family and coaches. Today, those same people work to change the lives of those affected by rare cancers, changing the game of cancer research by providing essential funding.
Casey Strale’s family tells Irvine Weekly that he was all about passion and inspiration.
“He did not want to be the kid with cancer, he just wanted to be a normal kid and not dwell on the monster growing in his body,” shares his mom. “Therefore he would skate, as often and anywhere he could, hockey was his first love, followed by food and music. The point here is to find your passion and live life large. That is what Casey would want for his friends and family, because that was who he was and he was happy, despite what was happening to him. When he was on the rink there was no cancer, no pain and no worries. Just a boy, a stick, a puck and a net.”
Casey taught his community the importance of taking care of those closest to you, and his community is now hoping that others will follow them in this mission of care.
Join them in skating into action for cancer research, treatment and patient quality of life at Casey’s Cup Memorial Hockey Tournament on Saturday, April 11 at the Great Park Ice & Fivepoint Arena in Irvine. Sign up or make a donation at: tgen.org/caseystrale
All of the funds raised from this event go directly to TGen Research, an affiliate of City of Hope. There, research is conducted to find a cure for ACC or Adrenocortical Cancer, the rare cancer Casey Strale fought so hard against.