BEEBE — Barrett Stark is an active, outdoor-loving 14-year-old. His friends and family identify him with his love of hunting and his role on the basketball team at Cabot Junior High School North.
On April 10, Stark was diagnosed with leukemia, and his loved ones, who are his support system, are making plans to come alongside and help him in any way they can.
The Barrett Bash Strike Out Leukemia baseball and softball tournament will take place May 23 and 24 at the Beebe Ballpark. Organized by family friend Mike Sharp, the tournament’s proceeds will go toward supporting Barrett and his family as he goes through ongoing treatments for the next three years.
Sharp’s son and Barrett are best friends and hunting buddies. Sharp said Barrett harvested his first buck and took his first mallard this past season.
While Sharp may not have organized a benefit tournament before, he has been working with Beebe Parks Director Lynn Hatcher to make this tournament a reality.
“This is out of love,” Sharp said. “This kid is fighting for his life.”
Barrett’s mother, Polly Pettey, said her son is a loving and outgoing young man.
“He would do anything for anyone,” she said. “He’s like my perfect little kid.”
Barrett’s birthday is March 8, and Pettey said he got sick a couple of days after his birthday this year. She took him to Arkansas Children’s Hospital, where he was diagnosed with pneumonia.
When he was feeling better, he was playing football and was tackled, severely bruising the ribs on his right side. As time went on, the pain continued but seemed to move.
“It didn’t dawn on me that the pain had moved to the left side,” Pettey said.
Barrett then started complaining that he felt like his lungs were “squeezing together,” Pettey said, and she noticed he was losing weight.
On April 8, Barrett went to the emergency room. His liver and spleen were enlarged, and Pettey said they were told it was either mononucleosis or leukemia. Barrett went through a CT scan, chest X-ray and blood work, and was diagnosed with leukemia.
Pettey has since quit her job to take care of Barrett. He has not been able to go to school and recently started a homebound school program to keep up with his work. Recent tests will show if his leukemia has gone into remission in response to his first round of chemotherapy, but he will still have to continue with the treatment for three years, and the earliest he will be able to go back to school is November.
“We’re coping with it now,” Pettey said. “It’s been hard.”
Barrett said he hopes to go to at least one game during the tournament in his honor, but he has to be careful about being around other people because any sickness considered to be mild to the general public could be detrimental to his weakened immune system. Anyone who enters his home must sanitize their hands, and being out in public is dangerous for him.
The Barrett Bash will include the baseball and softball tournament, as well as a live band Saturday night and a silent auction throughout the weekend.
Sharp said he is still looking for corporate sponsors to join in the fundraising effort.
The tournament fee is $200 per team. Interested teams can contact Mike Sharp at (501) 580-5868.
Private donations can also be made at any First Security Bank to the Michael Sharp Donations to Barrett account.
Staff writer Angela Spencer can be reached at (501) 244-4307 or firstname.lastname@example.org.