Maple Grove’s Kid Cancer Crusher

Ethan Krakau is a fun-loving third grader. He likes the Iowa State Cyclones and his favorite subject in school is a popular one.

“I like recess and seeing my friends,” Ethan says. 

Everyone who gets to play at recess with Ethan knows they are in for some fun. 

“Ethan’s a pretty happy kid,” says Ethan’s mom Amber. “He likes to laugh and joke around with his friends and family.”

A New Journey Begins

He was soaring through his second grade year at Maple Grove, until a few days before spring break.

“I was in-person then, but my stomach started hurting so I had to go home,” Ethan says.

“Just thinking it was a cold, but with a pandemic going on, we thought ok, we are going to keep him home,” adds Amber.

After a few days of discomfort the family decided they needed to take the next step.

“It was a can’t move kind of pain. This is something else,” says Amber. “I was calling the doctors, pediatricians and we were in by 2:30 and downtown by 3:30 in the afternoon.”

 At 3:31, Ethan’s life was never going to be the same. Doctors told Ethan’s family that he had Burkitt lymphoma. 

“Burkitt lymphoma doubles in size within 24-48 hours,” says Amber. “They wanted to get out in front of it right away, before it got so bad.”

Ethan’s surgery to remove the cancer was successful, but then his next journey began, chemotherapy. That was another tough conversation for the family to have.

“He never batted an eye at the whole thing,” says Ethan’s dad Mark.  “Ethan really never said why me, poor me. He was never upset with it. He was like OK and away we went.”

Chemotherapy isn’t easy and there we some really tough days along the way.

“It gave me side effects to lose my hair and fevers and mouth sores,” Ethan said.  “Once when I had mouth sores, I couldn’t eat. I only had one meal a day, which really wasn’t even a meal.”

Ethan’s Road to Recovery

Through the difficult days, Ethan’s toughness shined through. It was about this time when he started to ask about his classmates and school work. His friends in second grade at Maple Grove Elementary were missing him too.

“When we hear the cancer word, it’s a big scary thing,” said Margaret Killion, Ethan’s 2nd Grade Teacher.  “But we know Ethan. We know his heart, his desire and he’s going to push through it.”

With his fellow classmates, his family and a great team of providers at Blank Children’s Hospital, Ethan passed every test.

“Everyone in the class sent one letter and they gave me a toy to use in the hospital so I could feel better, now I have a big bin of toys.” says Ethan.

From toys, to teaching his classmates about cancer, this was a roller coaster journey.

“He was the one explaining so much of what was going on. He was explaining chemotherapy, his schedule and what he goes through on a day by day basis,” adds Killion. “I think that was really eye opening for the kiddos and made them want to get behind Ethan even more.”

Another part of Ethan’s recovery process takes us to Ames. Ethan was Iowa State’s Kid Captain of the day.

“I walked out on the field with Greg Eisworth and Brock Purdy,” Ethan recalls.  “We went out to the middle of the field and did the coin toss and I got a football signed by Iowa State’s Football Coach.”

Kid Cancer Crushers

As Ethan and his family were working through this process, they also started thinking about the next person. How can they turn this situation into a positive? 

“It seemed like forever, but we were in this for 4-5 months and now he’s well,” says Amber. “We felt like we were called to this for a greater purpose.”

The family started Kid Cancer Crushers, a non-profit organization, hoping to give back to families in this same situation.

“What I experienced wasn’t good,” says Ethan. “I don’t want anyone else to have to experience the same.”

“Half of our funds are going to go toward research,” says Mark.  “The other half, we are going to pick a different organization to support. This year it was Child Life (at Blank Children’s Hospital). We will have a different one next year. There are too many to not try to include them.”

The first ever Kid Cancer Crushers event was just a few weeks ago and it was a tremendous success. 

“I think we are going to clear $20,000,” shares Mark.  “We are going to be able to pay forward, more than we could ever imagine.”

Ethan Returns to Maple Grove for 3rd Grade

Kid Cancer Crushers has turned into a celebration of success for our friend Ethan. He beat cancer as a 2nd grader and returned to Maple Grove as a 3rd grader this year.

“Just to know he hadn’t been to school in the last 2 ½ months, it was very exciting to have him back walking into the school,” shares Amber.

In a small way Ethan’s journey was Maple Grove’s journey. This year, they are all back together.

“Maple Grove has done a great job of getting to know their kids and I’ve always felt that Principal Tierney really knows Ethan and it’s wonderful,” adds Amber.

Not only is Ethan back, so are his smiles, his jokes and his positive attitude. Here’s his advice for the next second grader to fight this battle.

“Even if it’s hard to do it, just keep doing it and then just get done with it so you can have a good life.”