Teenage Sarcoma survivor, who went viral at NFL Draft, to spread hope at Sarcoma Strong 5K

Photo Credit: ESPN and Make-A-Wish

Capital Region community members are coming together to walk, run, and raise awareness of sarcoma - a rare form of cancer that affects bones and soft tissue. Founded by Albany Medical Center’s Director of Orthopedic Oncology, Matthew DiCaprio, MD, the Sarcoma Strong organization and the annual Sarcoma Strong 5K aim to support patients and families and raise money to support sarcoma research.  Since its inception in 2014, the Sarcoma Strong 5K has spread worldwide to 14 countries and 35 states, raising nearly $150,000 in 2022.

“We want the global sarcoma community to unite,” said Dr. DiCaprio. “We want to be able to support our sarcoma families at every step of their journey, from offering them guidance when first diagnosed, to advocating for their care. And by generating funds for research, we are moving the needle of progress in understanding this rare disease and offering hope for better treatments for sarcoma.”

This year, Dr. DiCaprio’s patient Kyle Stickles from Ghent, will be walking as a sign of hope for others battling sarcoma. Kyle, 14, is an osteosarcoma survivor.

Kyle’s mom Jamie recalls when life was turned upside down in August 2020.  While at a baseball game, Kyle, who was 11 years old at the time, got a bug bite on his leg that became increasingly painful. An urgent care visit and X-ray revealed the bug bite was not the reason for Kyle’s discomfort.

“You could tell when the doctor came in that something was wrong,” said Jamie. “I looked at the X-ray and I wrote ‘tumor?’ on the back of it, so Kyle couldn’t see, and the doctor shook his head yes.”

“I was shocked,” said Kyle. “It all happened so quickly.”

Kyle visited Dr. DiCaprio and Jennifer Pearce, MD, at Albany Medical Center where he got the diagnosis of osteosarcoma, a type of bone cancer.

From October 2020 through June 2021, Kyle underwent surgery and multiple rounds of chemotherapy at the Melodies Center for Childhood Cancer and Blood Disorders, at the Bernard & Millie Duker Children's Hospital, where he stayed on-and-off for 97 days.


“It was very painful going through treatments, but I knew it had to get done just to be normal again,” said Kyle. “The whole community and my friends were incredible. People reached out and sent me stuff. It was all really nice.”

On June 28, 2021, Kyle started remission!  He rang the ceremonial gong in the Melodies Center to mark an end of his treatment.

After spending months in a wheelchair and on crutches, Kyle began physical therapy to be able to walk again.  But he was also concerned about his ability to play sports.

“I remember him asking ‘am I ever going to be able to play football again?’ and having to tell him ‘no’,” said Jamie.  “Dr. DiCaprio said he could try to play baseball, but he can’t slide or play a position where he’s at risk of getting hit in the leg with the ball, and with limited running.”

While Kyle was able to play baseball again with the help of a pinch runner and a position in the outfield, his love for football was greater than his desire to play the game. Kyle says he’s been a New York Jets fan since the day he was born. When he began working with Make-A-Wish of Northeastern New York, Kyle knew exactly what his wish would be.

“I always liked watching the NFL Draft to see who the Jets were going to select,” said Kyle. “So I thought it would be a cool opportunity to announce one of their draft picks.”

Kyle was invited to Jets headquarters to meet the general managers and attend the draft press conference, and he even got to play catch with Jets wide receiver Garrett Wilson. Then in April, Kyle and his family were flown to Kansas City to attend the NFL Draft.

“Going up on stage, I was really nervous,” said Kyle.” But once I got out there, I told myself to let it all go and go after it.”

Welcomed on the stage by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, Kyle began by expressing his thanks to everyone who made his wish come true.

“With the 15th pick, in the 2023 NFL draft, the New York J-E-T-S Jets-Jets-Jets select Will McDonald, linebacker, Iowa State! Let’s go!” announced Kyle, with enough enthusiasm to make anyone want to cheer for the Jets.

The crowd, and social media, went wild!  Kyle’s announcement went viral and gained the attention of other famous football players like Patrick Mahomes of the Kansas City Chiefs.

“It was everything I hoped it would be, and a lot more,” said Kyle. “Just seeing the reactions from everybody, even Patrick Mahomes tweeted about it - that was really cool!”

Since the draft, Jamie says it’s been “the wish that keeps on giving”.  Kyle filmed the Jets’ Schedule Release video, he spoke with other players and coaches, and received tons of Jets memorabilia.

“People are recognizing Kyle and the inspiration that he is,” said Jamie. “We believe Kyle’s story is giving others hope.”

The family has since connected with other sarcoma patients and families to offer guidance and comfort.

Now, Kyle will join the 10th annual Sarcoma Strong 5K as the Honoree of the Year. He, and his team Kyle Strong, will be at the event on August 13, 2023, at Saratoga Spa State Park in Saratoga Springs, helping to raise awareness and give back.

“For anyone going through something like cancer, or going through a difficult time, I hope they see that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. They can get through this challenge in their life,” said Kyle.