The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

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February 21, 2014

A Don McCormack column: A matter of the heart

As he prepares to play his final game in Lakeside Gymnasium tonight, Kyle Downs knows his best friend, Austin Tome, will be looking down on him

Kyle Downs remembers as if it happened yesterday, though in truth, it was almost four years ago. He stood by, watching his best friend in this world as he eyeballed the wheelchair being pushed in his direction.

And Kyle knew that wasn’t going to go over well with his buddy.

He was correct, too. As he watched his pal begin to speak, he braced for the objection he knew was coming.

Turns out, though, not even Kyle was prepared for what he was about to hear...

Buddies...

Austin Tome and Kyle Downs were the proverbial cleancut, all-American boys.

They spent their formative years roughhousing, be it in sports such as football or basketball or playing kickball or even hide-and-seek in the backyard.

“We were absolute best friends,” Kyle said. “We did everything together. You name it, we did it... together.”

They went to preschool together and their bond built from there.

The only time they opposed one another was in Little League.

“Austin was on the Tigers,” Kyle said. “I was on the Yankees.

“It wasn’t fun not being on his team.”

While not teammates in Little League, turns out, that would be the only occasion they weren’t attached at the hip.

“There was nothing he wouldn’t do for me and there was nothing I wouldn’t do for him.”

Kyle, the son of Michele and Bill, and Austin, the son of Kym and Bill, lifetime of friendship.

They were, but...

“I remember, Austin and I were playing in a YMCA basketball game, we were on the same team,” Kyle said. “In one of our final games, he said he had a stomach ache, which wasn’t like him.

“He never complained about anything.”

Terrible news

Austin’s stomach ache was more than that. Much more than that.

“When they took him to the hospital, they discovered Austin had cancer,” Kyle said. “Mom sat me down and explained everything to me. She told me how bad it was.”

And it was indeed bad. The 11-year-old fourth grader at Thomas Jefferson Elementary was about to be put in the fight of his life... for his life.

In February 2007, Austin Elliot Tome was diagnosed with Desmoplastic Small Round Blue Cell Tumor (DSRCT), a rare and very aggressive form of cancer that primarily targets young teenage boys.

“I really didn’t know what to do,” Kyle said. “This was my best friend and he was in trouble.”

Austin was one of those kinds of kids who rarely sat still. He was always into something.

Full of life and love for his family, including younger brothers, Bryce and Gage, he was involved in the YMCA basketball and soccer programs, the Ashtabula Little League and the Jefferson Midget Football League. He was always running or swimming, playing kickball or flashlight tag and skateboarding.

Austin enjoyed movies, amusement parks and video games and his “favorite thing” —  his dirt bike.

Partial to spicy food, he also had talents for music, playing electric guitar and saxophone.

“He loved so many different things,” Kyle said, in obvious admiration. “And he was good at all of them.”

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