Pagano offers support in Johnson County moms' fight against pediatric cancer


FRANKLIN, Ind. (WTHR) - The battle to combat childhood cancer has a new voice tonight from the Indianapolis Colts.

Coach Chuck Pagano, a cancer survivor himself, is offering support to Johnson County families where the pediatric cancer rate has been higher than the state and national averages.

13 Investigates first told you about the parents who were desperate for answers. Those families hosted a community meeting about a new law to track cancer cases on Thursday.

Pagano knows what it's like to be on fourth down and in need of a miracle, both on and off the field. It's why he's lending his voice to support a group of Johnson County families battling pediatric cancer.

"In Johnson County, too many parents are hearing the words, 'Your child has cancer.' We've seen a staggering and concerning rise in childhood cancer cases and too many parents are feeling powerless and helpless," he says on a video posted to the Trevor's Trek Foundation website.

"I'm joining the families of Johnson County and those around the country to call on Trevor's Law for assistance," added Pagano, who went on to call the children battling cancer "warriors."

Pagano is speaking out to help raise awareness about Trevor's Law. It's named after childhood cancer survivor Trevor Schaefer.

"Coach Pagano's an amazing individual, for him to voice his support for us, Trevor's Law, Trevor's Trek, the community of Johnson County is incredible," said Schaefer.

The federal legislation passed last year with the support of the Johnson County moms. Now Trevor, who lives in Idaho, is in Indiana to help get the word out about the increased tracking and data collection for cancer cases now required. Wednesday, they met with staff at Senator Joe Donnelly's office. In 2015, 13 Investigates discovered 30 cases of childhood cancer in Johnson County. More than half of the children lived within 25 miles of another. Still, the State Health Department ruled there was no cancer cluster.

"It's the same old story when you go to the health department. 'Oh no, everything's okay, there's no cluster, and they turn you away, and it's time that they quit turning us away," said Charlie Smith, Trevor Schaefer's mother.

Stacie Davidson, whose step-son Zane has leukemia, says the number of children diagnosed in Johnson County is growing.

"We have four kids in four months this year, just this year with blood cancers. Three living within seven miles of each other," she said.

"Whatever it is, there's a reason that they're getting cancer. And we need to do something now," Smith told 13 Investigates.

The group believes the sooner government officials get on board, the better chance of getting the necessary funding for data tracking and research.

"It's our kids! And nothing's more important than our kids," said Davidson.

"And I think we have some power," added Smith, referring to the new federal law all states will have to adhere to.