free fallOn Saturday, Oct. 29, Fayetteville residents will have the opportunity to avail themselves of a unique adventure: a tandem free fall with members of the U.S. Army’s Golden Knights. The chance comes with the opportunity support research into a rare form of cancer: Fibrolamellar Hepatocellular Carcinoma.

The event, hosted by Kevin and Shawn Grullon, local realtors, honors their memories of their son, Zach, who died from the disease on Jan. 28, 2012. Those who knew Zach refer to him as energetic, adventurous, outgoing and strong-willed. A graduate of Jack Britt High School, Grullon dreamed of serving in the United States military and considered a tandem jump with the U.S. Army Golden Knights a dream come true.

All of that changed in 2010, when he was diagnosed with Fibrolamellar Hepatocellular Carcinoma. The disease, which primarily attacks teens and young adults, is a rare liver cancer. Annually, 200 young adults die from this disease. Some 72,000 teens and young adults are diagnosed with various forms of cancer every year, according to a 2010 Wall Street Journal article, of that number, 10,000 die. Until 2008, little research was done in the area of Fibrolamellar Hepatocellular Carcinoma because it is so rare, but that changed when Tucker Davis, the founder of the Firbrolamellar Cancer Foundation, was diagnosed with the disease.

Davis founded the foundation with the hope of finding a cure for this often fatal disease. The foundation’s mission is threefold: Find a cure and treatment options; raise awareness of the disease; and bring attention to teen and young adult cancers.

Grullon’s parents, Kevin and Shawn, have been contributing to that mission since Zach’s death. Zach was diagnosed with FHC in March 2010. He had been dealing with severe stomach pain and nausea for a couple of months. Friends and family didn’t think much of the pain because Zach worked out so hard. After numerous tests and scans, a grapefruit-sized tumor was found on his liver. In April 2010, he had a liver resection, but the cancer had already spread to his lymph nodes. Zach began an intensive round of chemotherapy, but he didn’t let it stop the way he lived his life. He continued to work out and play sports. And, in August 2010, just a couple of months after his high-school graduation, he jumped with the Golden Knights.

The memory of that jump inspired his parents to host the first Free Fall to Fight Cancer on Saturday, June 2, 2012. The event gave individuals the opportunity to perform a tandem jump with former and off-duty members of the Golden Knights, who volunteered for the cause. It was so popular that the Grullons have continued the event and this year, the event is slated for Oct. 8 at Skydive Paraclete XP, located at 132 Airport Drive in Raeford, at 9 a.m. For a $350 donation, individuals will get to jump with the world-famous team and receive a video and photos of their jump to share with friends and family. If you are only interested in the jump and not in having a record of the event, the tandem jump without video or pictures is $225. Those interested in participating in the fundraiser must be at least 18 years of age and weigh less than 235 pounds.

All proceeds from the event will go directly to the Firbrolamellar Cancer Foundation. To register, or for more information, contact Kevin and Shawn Grullon at 910-257-3027 or 910-229-1100 or email [email protected]

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