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On special bike rides, Arden Virnig carries a keepsake that was once Mary Catherine’s. The “Warrior Stick,” was a gift from friends and family members, to assist Mary in her fight against cancer.
Rubber hits road for
children's cancer appeal

Cyclist to pedal 900 miles in June

By Seth Schmidt.


Mary Virnig ran in the state cross-county meet her senior year.

It’s a devastating statistic:  Each week in America, 38 children are diagnosed with cancer. Roughly, one third won’t live to see another birthday.

Arden Virnig wants to help change those odds.The Onamia-area physician is raising money to fight childhood cancers by pedaling in the Great Cycle Challenge USA.  He’s pledged to bike 899 miles during the month of June, as a way to raise awareness of childhood cancers, and raise money for cancer research.  As of Monday afternoon, after cycling from the Wilder Inn of Tracy to Russell and back, he’d logged 588 miles.  He’s raised just over  $12,000.

His over-the-road mission is searingly personal.  It will be six years this November since he and his wife, Patti (Hook) Virnig (TAHS ’78), lost their oldest child to cancer.

“It is something that I can do,” he explains.  Sometimes, the father feels that his daughter’s spirit riding with him.

Patti bikes with her husband occasionally. This weekend the couple near Lake Shetek and stayed overnight at the Wilder Inn of Tracy. Arden’s long treks for the Great Cycle Challenge are riden almost entirely alone.

But Patti shares Arden’s passion for children’s cancer research.  Also a family physician, Patti is excited about the new avenues that science is developing in treating childhood cancer. 

“There is some good research going on,” Patti notes.

Survival rates for leukemia and lymphoma have improved significantly.  Arden Virnig says he would like to see survival rates for cancers with tumors improve similarly.


For more on this article, see this week's Headlight-Herald.

Make-A-Wish playset
delights three-year-old

Liam Dieter sets off to find buried treasure.

By Kyleen Olson


Liam Dieter has had a lot to smile about these days.

Not only did he just celebrate his third birthday complete with gifts and cake, he also just received clear scans at his last doctor’s appointment and he has been able to play with his Make-A-Wish gift, a backyard play set.
The wooden play set has a slide and a pirate ship’s wheel, complete with moving telescope on a raised platform.

“So I can look for my buried treasure,” the three-year-old explains.

A set of monkeybars is ready for swinging once he’s had a few years to grow into them.
“You are supposed to go across them with your hands to the other side,” Liam explains. A picnic table platform provides a shady spot for snacks.  The set has two swings, plus a climbing rope.

A rock climbing wall finishes the playset off.

“I am an expert,” Liam says proudly.

“He got up there right away,” Dad Matt adds.

Liam was diagnosed with a Wilm’s tumor, or cancer of the kidney, at the age of 10 months. No genetic connection has been found to the disease; Liam just happened to have this birth anomaly.

The tumor was surgically removed in 2014. However, cancerous cells were detected in a scan following the procedure. Liam then went through six rounds of radiation to his midsection followed by six rounds of chemotherapy.



For more on this article, see this week's Headlight-Herald.