Logan Tjossem with son, Kaden, who lost his battle with cancer last year. (Submitted photo)
This Saturday, Decorah native Logan Tjossem will be hiking before many people wake up.
As a participant in CureSearch for Children's Cancer's Ultimate Hike, he will spend 10-16 hours trekking the hills, valleys and roots of the Superior Hiking Trail, all to raise funds and awareness for childhood cancer research. He will be joined by outdoor enthusiasts, avid hikers, and folks who are just trying to lose a few pounds while helping a good cause.
For Tjossem, a Decorah High School class of 1994 graduate who lives in Rochester, Minn., it's personal.
He knows that the 25.5 grueling miles he faces will be a walk in the park compared to what children with cancer go through.
On Sept. 21, 2011, his three-year-old son Kaden was diagnosed with osteosarcoma. For the next 15 months, Kaden and his family went through an emotional rollercoaster including countless doctor appointments, MRIs, CT scans, and hospitals stays. Treated at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., Kaden endured surgeries, chemotherapy and radiation in an effort to beat the cancer that was growing in his bones. Despite his charisma, sense of humor, and positive "Let's Kick Cancer's Butt" attitude, Kaden died on Dec. 22, 2012.
Throughout his journey, Kaden inspired countless people, including many who only knew Kaden via his website.
"His spirit and memory live on within us. As his parents, we could not have been more proud of him!" said Tjossem.
Tjossem will not be hiking alone. Steve Dickes, whose son Will died from leukemia in 2011, and Tom Canan, whose son Will died from a brain tumor in 2012, will be by his side every step of the way. The three met in a support group for parents in Rochester, but attending meetings and talking about their feelings was not enough.
"I needed something physical to feel like I was making a difference by challenging myself, physically and mentally. I had mentioned this to Tom and he found CureSearch," Tjossem said.
The majority of the hikers trained together in the Twin Cities, but the "Rochester Dads" have been training on their own for the past three months.
Ultimate Hike, a program of CureSearch for Children's Cancer, is a life changing, lifesaving adventure on which participants hike towards a cure for all children's cancers. At present, childhood cancer kills more children than all other diseases combined. This is the third year for the Superior Hiking Trail event, and organizers hope to raise over $115,000 for childhood cancer research.
To learn more about Ultimate Hike, Kaden's story, or support Tjossem's efforts, visit ultimatehike.org/sht/logan.
"Kaden's spirit and positive attitude may help lead to a cure so that one day every child diagnosed with cancer will be guaranteed a cure. In honor of my son, Kaden, I say, 'Cancer, Take a Hike!" said Tjossem.