During May, the Spring Lake Park Boys Youth Lacrosse Association participated in a Socking it to Melanoma campaign to bring awareness to the fight against the disease that Graham Fowler, a member of the under-13 team, is battling.
The soon-to-be fifth-grader was diagnosed with spitzoid melanoma, a rare form of childhood melanoma. Both Panthers junior varsity and varsity teams were asked to wear black shirts at school and then black socks with their uniforms ahead of a May 22 game against Forest Lake in support of Fowler and the campaign.
Fowler was recognized during halftime of each game. He was carried off the field on the shoulders of the varsity team after a 9-6 win against Forest Lake in the regular season finale.
Fowler is currently cancer free and is part of a summer Panthers lacrosse team. He’s still experiencing side effects from treatments with his 12th surgery in 12 months on June 25, this time to repair his leg. He will miss a summer-league game and team pictures, something his mother, Cheryl Trocke-Fowler, said is always a tough thing to get past. He missed school pictures last fall because of another surgery.
Lacrosse was the first sport Fowler participated in, so the Panthers lacrosse community holds even more special meaning with the Fowlers.
“He didn’t want people to know he had cancer, but it was very apparent he couldn’t do things like the others could,” Trocke-Fowler said with a lump in her throat, recalling the impact the organization has had on their family. “One of the other lacrosse moms saw he was raising money for bracelets and knew he couldn’t be there all the time because of doctor visits or surgeries. They wanted to help and really rallied around him with the black socks.”
The Fowler family created Graham’s Gift after his diagnosis with hopes of raising money for Childhood Cancer Research in Minnesota through special bracelet sales worldwide.
They’ve generated $15,000 in one year since the diagnosis with help in part from the Spring Lake Park junior varsity and varsity programs and help from appearances on the Today Show and Ellen.
Trocke-Fowler is one of eight children and his story caught national attention simply through word-of-mouth on Facebook and other social media sources.
“We just thought Grandma would buy a few, but now we’re up to 15,000 sold,” Trocke-Fowler said, noting that a girl in Thailand buys and resells the bracelets to raise money in her community. They’ve sold and mailed bracelets to every state in the nation except for West Virginia.
Trocke-Fowler is a respiratory care services manager at Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota, so her son’s diagnosis and experience hit home even more.
“It makes you think about things a little bit differently. You want to make things a little bit better because this could be your son,” she said.
Jason Olson is at