By Mark Ambrogi
Wayland’s Warriors continue to fight on.
The group is named for friends and family of Wayland Villars, a Noblesville boy who died in August 2013, two months before his fifth birthday on Oct. 24, from Diffuse Instrinsic Pontine Glioma, or DIPG, a rare pediatric brain tumor. Wayland was diagnosed in April 2012.
Noblesville residents Amber and Ben Villars, his parents, started a nonprofit, the Wayland Villars Foundation, to raise money. During Wayland’s battle, Amber’s sister coined the term “Wayland’s Warriors” for supporters.
Amber has since written a cookbook, titled “Warrior Food,” with recipes from friends and supporters, to be released in November. All proceeds will go to the mission of the foundation, supporting area families with DIPG and continued research. On Dec. 5, The Wild Bookstore, 884 Logan St., will hold an event to celebrate the release of the book.
“Towards the end of his life, we realized continued research is going to be the best thing to offer hope to other families affected who continue to get diagnosed every year,” Amber said. “So we decided to donate his brain and his tumor to research physicians at Stanford University, which was our home base for treatment. The next step is we knew we wanted to continue to raise money. We weren’t sure at first if a foundation was right for us or something we could pull off.”
They decided to host a Wine & Canvas fundraiser, but learned it was hard to raise money because businesses wanted to see a tax ID number.
“So that was the first inkling that a foundation was the way to go,” Amber said.
So they decided to reach out to Stanford researchers and Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck, a Stanford graduate. Luck agreed to do a fundraiser.
After a long time planning with Luck’s agent, they decided on the Play Like a Warrior event, a football camp and dance and cheer camp on May 3 of this year for kids ages 5 to 16.
“(Luck) wanted to make sure DIPG was the forefront. He wanted to make sure it wasn’t a Colts thing or revolved just around him,” said Amber, who has a 4-year-old daughter Amelia. “The Pacemates (Indiana Pacers dance team) came in and helped with the dance and cheer camp to make it more well-rounded. We were able to raise $50,000, and we were able to send a check for $30,000 to Stanford. We would have loved to raise more money.”
There were $15,000 in expenses and $5,000 went of printing the cookbook.
DIPG received national attention when Mount Saint Joseph freshman basketball player Lauren Hill, from Lawrenceburg, fulfilled her dream of playing college basketball last season despite the disease. She died in April. It’s rare an older teen like Hill was stricken with DIPG.
“It happens mostly in kids, and parents don’t want their 3- to 5-year-old child dealing with media while they’re trying to keep their child alive,” Amber said. “So it’s rare to see a child who can talk about it. We had someone who could get the word out themselves while suffering from it. It helped to get awareness out. It put a face to the disease.”
For more, visit waylandswarriors.com.