“Six hours after receiving a minor cut on her knee during a bike ride on Saturday afternoon, our four year old daughter, Karson, spiked a fever. Her fever remained through Sunday, and a rash began to develop over her body. By 7:00 pm, her little body was trembling and she could not walk. We rushed her to the local Urgent Care, which in turn, sent us to the Pediatric ER. About midnight, after x-rays & a couple blood tests were run, we were informed that our daughter likely had a form of cancer. We were then taken via ambulance to UNC Children’s Hospital (Chapel Hill), 100 miles from home. No bags packed. A scared older sister, Kylie, remained at home with her “Granddaddy”. At 3:30 am, we arrived at the hospital…the words “Pediatric Oncology Unit”, glared above us like a neon sign. The only word to describe that experience is surreal.

 At 7:00, Monday morning, April 27, 2009, we were introduced to Dr. Stuart Gold, her designated oncologist. He confirmed that Karson did indeed have cancer. Leukemia. As you can imagine, our world stood still. Dr. Gold left to run tests and identify the form of Leukemia and the course of treatment. He returned at noon and announced that our daughter had Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL). We then received an overwhelming amount of information regarding the blood cancer and action plan. Despite the grim news, we actually felt at peace. It was the UNC Children’s Hospital and the remarkable Dr. Gold. In our darkest hours, we knew in our hearts, that these doctors and nurses, technicians and volunteers, would do everything in their power to save our daughter. That’s the impact of this facility. In fact, after two exasperating visits to our local ER, shortly after Karson’s diagnosis, we decided to drive the 90 minutes to Chapel Hill to the UNC Cancer Clinic or Pediatric ER, because the quality of care was significantly better. We did this at least a half dozen times. Even Karson felt more relaxed…but that might have been to get a glimpse of Dr. Gold and his fart phone!!!     

Over the next 27 months, our baby would endure over 1,000 needle pokes, 17 spinal taps, blood & platelet transfusions, bone marrow aspirations, surgeries, steroids, other meds, and over 750 doses of various chemo-therapies (including daily oral chemo pills).   

Karson is now ten, in remission, and remains a healthy little girl. A couple decades ago, her diagnosis could have been a death sentence. She continues to visit the UNC Cancer Clinic on a routine basis for physicals and blood work. This will span her lifetime.  

We feel blessed that Karson was (is) treated at UNC Children’s Hospital. We honestly believe it made all the difference…in our acceptance of her diagnosis, in her ability to fight pediatric cancer and ultimately in our ability to share our story and work with organizations like Reelin’ for Research and the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society in order to raise money to fight Pediatric Cancer.”

– The Dickens Family 

“On August 27, 2010, when our 7-year-old daughter Ashley was diagnosed with Stage IV Neuroblastoma, we had no idea how important the NC Children’s Hospital would become to our family. Since that day, we have become some of the biggest fans of the doctors, nurses, researchers and staff there who make it one of the greatest resources for children in North Carolina. Our family immediately wanted to do all we could to help bring awareness and more funding to the hospital…our new second home. We were truly honored when Ashley was asked to be a Patient Ambassador and Hunter and I were asked to be on the Board of Visitors for the Children’s Hospital.

During this time, at a NC Children’s Hospital event, I met Richard Montana and Anne Margaret Correll and learned about the Reelin’ for Research Tournament that they coordinate each year in honor of their late father, Tony Montana. I remember sharing Ashley’s story of her battle with cancer to the crowd that day and seeing the true emotion in both of their eyes. I was deeply touched by their obvious passion and desire to try and make a difference in the lives of the kids at the hospital and wanted to know more about them.  I was doubly honored to hear that the money raised through the tournament helps to fund much-needed childhood cancer research through support of a pediatric oncology fellowship program at UNC.

Since that day, our family has tried to get more involved with the Reelin’ for Research efforts by attending the Kickoff events in Raleigh, helping to spread awareness about the tournament, and attending the events over the tournament weekends each year. Hunter’s company sponsored a boat last year and fished in the tournament and they plan to do so again this year. I still get chills thinking about the check presentation last year when it was announced that $410,000 was raised, putting the cumulative total for all of the years at nearly 1.5 million dollars!! Just incredible!!!! And all of this success is due to the hardworking, passionate group of volunteers who have created an impeccably run tournament full of fun, fishing, and love of the kids. Our family is just so proud of their overwhelming success and immensely appreciative of their efforts to bring an end to childhood cancer! We look forward to doing all we can to help support them and to show them how truly appreciative we are for all of their hard work! Thank you Reelin’ for Research!!!!!”

– Nicole, Hunter, Olivia & Ashley Burnette

“Last year was our family’s first year participating in Reelin’ for Research and we were blown away by the event. It is expertly run–and the energy and excitement of the Montana family and the volunteers is contagious. We temporarily forgot that we were in the midst of the cancer fight (with a two-year-old battling ALL) because the fishing tournament is that much fun! When they announced that they had raised over $1 million dollars to date–five years before the goal they had set for themselves–I had tears of joy in my eyes. That is incredibly impressive on any level but especially in the short timeframe of only six years. I think that success speaks to the drive and dedication of those running the show. With that kind of passion, I have no doubt that R4R will continue to raise funds for pediatric cancer research until a cure is found! And we plan to support them every step of the way. We are so grateful for their tireless efforts in this cause that is near and dear to our hearts!“

– Lisa Menius, 2015

“Our son Jacob was diagnosed with leukemia in 2012. At the time, we had no idea how important UNC would become to us. We are forever grateful to UNC for saving our son’s life, and we feel the best way to show our gratitude is to help them to help more children. Childhood cancer is severely underfunded, but Reelin’ for Research is helping to address that problem. Thank you to everyone who is a part of R4R for your devotion to raising money for childhood cancer research at UNC and thank you to everyone who donates!”

– James and Amy Hermann

 “The Reelin’ for Research tournament is not only doing a wonderful service for children’s cancer research, it is also bringing thousands of dollars in revenue to our community each year. It is a breath of fresh air when the R4R group comes to town with all of their energy and passion for their mission…the Morehead City waterfront comes alive!  In just a short time, the tournament has gained the respect and backing of the entire waterfront. We are proud that R4R chose our fleet and community to host such a wonderful event.

– Captain Dale Britt, Sensation Sport Fishing

 “Reelin’ for Research is such a fantastic fundraiser and Jack’s is honored to be a part of it.  Everyone involved is a pleasure to work with. The tireless efforts of all of the volunteers to put on this first-class event for a great cause is second to none. We’ve enjoyed every second of it and hope to be a part of your event for years to come. Thank you for what you do!

– Keri McCann, owner of Jack’s Waterfront Bar

“I became involved with Reelin’ for Research early on because I wanted to support my friends and their great cause. However, I soon realized that this was something more than I’d ever imagined. Seeing first-hand how tirelessly these people dedicate themselves and the difference that the money makes in the lives of young patients made me want to do more.”

– Cory Barber, Edward Jones Investments, title sponsor