The Millers’ Story and Karsyn’s High Risk Leukemia
Longtime race fans and sponsors Andy and Jessica Miller, along with their son Austin, would never have imagined that their daughter, Karsyn, would be faced with a cancer diagnosis at just three years old. It was in the midst of tragedy and the worst of times that they witnessed the very best in people. The generosity, caring, support and concern that they received was humbling and life-changing.
In addition to the Millers being longtime friends and sponsors of modified drivers Darin Duffy and JD Auringer, Jessica has been attending dirt track racing for as long as she can remember. As a child, she watched her dad’s modified take home the IMCA Super Nationals title. As memorable as that was, it would be 18 years later, when Darin and JD drove their cars on that same track in honor of Karsyn and in support of all of those who lost their lives to cancer or were fighting for another day, that racing turned into more than a PASSION for the family. It was then that it became their PURPOSE!
The family has no intention of slowing down their effort. “We formed this organization to give back and help others who continue to battle this ugly disease. As long as we are able to attend races and have the support of others, we are going to volunteer our time with the purpose of making a difference in the lives of as many individuals as possible.”
How Karsyn’s Krusaders Began
On April 15, 2008, time stood still and all at once everything we knew about our lives and our futures was forever changed. After a routine visit to the doctor to address what we thought was a lingering cold or anemia, Karsyn’s physician ordered blood work which revealed she had High Risk Leukemia and was facing nearly 3 years of treatment.
We were instructed to take her to the University of Iowa Hospitals immediately for treatment. The drive to the hospital was surreal. Karsyn was the child we prayed for and upon her arrival into the world she lit up our lives and along with her big brother Austin, was the sunshine in our every day. Andy and I were unable to convince ourselves that cancer had invaded her body and that her very life was in jeopardy.
When we made it to the 3rd floor which houses the Pediatric Oncology Unit, reality hit us hard. We left the safety and comfort of our familiar lives and were suddenly in a place filled with the bustling of busy doctors, nurses and other medical personnel. The brave fronts we presented deteriorated as we struggled to process the images of children strapped to IV’s and bald from chemo as we attempted to reconcile in our minds that our own sweet baby girl at an innocent age of 3 would face a similar fate.
It didn’t take long for our family to realize how blessed we were as we faced the journey. Unlike some of the other families we met along the way, we had medical insurance access, a two parent household, endless community, church, friend and family support, flexible work schedules as well as education and experience with medical, legal, and insurance terminology and process.
Although the emotional and physical toll of watching a child fight for their life and endure so much at such a young age was too much to handle at times, we vowed to focus on the positives in our fight and to support others in need whenever possible . . . the single parents, those who lost a job because of the inability to report to work while caring for their child, others who were overwhelmed by the medical or insurance process, etc.
It took us nearly a year to adjust to “cancer” life and venture out into a few of our normal routines. It was while at a local dirt track race that an idea surfaced, a way we could show our appreciation and give back to organizations and individuals who helped us get through the diagnosis and initial treatment.
We approached our long-time friends, Darin and Jennifer Duffy with a simple idea . . . unveil a new look at the IMCA Super Nationals to support Karsyn and others battling cancer. T-shirts with the new design as well as racing decals would be sold to raise funds which would be donated to Make-A-Wish of Iowa, the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and Give Kids the World.
We could not have anticipated how the racing community would rally around our efforts. The interest and support we received astounded us. In just a few short months we processed and sold over 1,200 t-shirts and generated proceeds of more than $11,000!
In January 2010, we formed Karsyn’s Krusaders Kickin’ Cancer’s Butt One Lap at a Time®, the rest is history!
- Supported organizations to help families in 17 different states
- Over 7,600 fans on Facebook
- 10,000 merchandise items sold
- Over $650,000 collected through merchandise sales, partnerships, events, etc.
- National television and magazine coverage
- Endless support of tracks, fans, drivers, promoters, businesses, etc.