‘Such a wonderful kid’: GoFundMe raising scholarship cash in memory of Terry Fox’s Karin Khuong

You can learn a lot about Karin Khuong in one quick tale.

About five years ago, Khuong was in elementary school and her teacher asked for a report on a person of prominence. Khuong was basketball crazy even back then and, with a little assistance, set up a time to talk to Rich Chambers, who had gained attention coaching in the high school boys hoop ranks with the Centennial Centaurs and Terry Fox Ravens and was also working with some university and junior national teams by then.

Khuong eventually moved on to attend Terry Fox. Chambers is at the Port Coquitlam school as a counsellor. Last year, Khuong presented that report — “it’s like a brochure,” Chambers says —back to Chambers.

“It’s one of my most precious possessions,” Chambers said Wednesday.

Khuong, a guard who was one of 10 Grade 10’s on the roster of a Ravens team that finished second at the Quad A senior girls basketball provincial championships last spring, died Oct. 4 after a two-year battle with cancer. She was 16.

By various accounts, Khuong disliked the spotlight her cancer put on her. She didn’t want that focus. The team portion of basketball was one of her favourite parts of the sport. She wasn’t comfortable with it all being about her, and especially not in the cancer way.

Khuong was good with it being about other people. She was good with Chambers having that report as a keepsake, good with him knowing that the conversation that they had years earlier had meant so much to her.

Khuong probably wouldn’t love that there’s a GoFundMe page up this weekwith her name front and centre. She’d be keen on it being about bringing in scholarship money for others. The hope is to raise $20,000 so that $2,000 a year can be given out to student-athletes for a 10-year span.

As of Wednesday afternoon, there had been over $10,000 donated in its first five days.

Karin Khuong, a Grade 10 student at Terry Fox secondary school who is fighting rhabdomyosarcoma (RMS), a soft-tissue childhood cancer, leans forward and laughs on the bench during the B.C. high school girls basketball provincial championships. For Steve Ewen story in the Vancouver Sun and Province published Feb. 28, 2020. (Photo: Nick Bondi) [PNG Merlin Archive]
Karin Khuong leans forward and laughs on the bench during the B.C. high school girls basketball provincial championships in February. PHOTO BY NICK BONDI

“Karin’s goal was to play basketball at Simon Fraser, and with her determination, we know she would have achieved it,” Khuong’s parents Jen and Anthony say on the GoFundMe page. “Now she is going to assist other students chasing their dreams.”

In September 2018, Khuong was diagnosed with Stage 4 rhabdomyosarcoma, a rare type of cancer that forms in soft tissue and is most often found in children. There were various treatments, including a stem-cell transplant. She was doing well enough that her doctors signed off on a family trip to Bali, but she was informed in January that the cancer was back.

That led to even more treatments. Khuong was still well enough that she got to play in the fourth quarter of Terry Fox’s 69-37 win over the John Oliver Jokers in their opener at Quad A provincials at the Langley Events Centre on Feb. 26.

She received a loud ovation and loads of chants of #2KStrong, which is the hashtag those around Khuong adopted.

“Karin didn’t let cancer define her,” said Mike Carkner, who shares Terry Fox coaching duties with Teena Frost, whose family also set up the GoFundMe. “She let very few people know when she had the recurrence. She didn’t want to talk about it. She didn’t want to be treated differently.”

Community sports have been permitted to return to competition in these novel coronavirus times, albeit in four-team cohorts. High school sports remains on the shelf. There’s no word yet on when or even if they will return.

It’s difficult to fathom what would be better for the Ravens right now. Maybe they could use the distraction that playing games would bring. Maybe they need the time away from the court.

Many of the core group of the team have been together since they were all in Grade 3, playing club basketball. Khuong spoke fondly at the provincials about playing under Carkner and Frost for all that time.

Khuong said then: “A bunch of us had always talked about how we were going to be a team together at Terry Fox.”

They will one day get back to games. and Carkner said there’s a push “to finish this journey together for Karin.”

“It’s been such a hard few months for everyone. It’s been about getting through and moving forward and trying to draw strength from wherever you can,” Carkner said.

“Karin was such a big part of this group. As much as it hurts everyone, we want to try to draw something positive from her. She was such a wonderful kid. You want to take something from the lessons that she’s shown us. She lived life every day. We want to carry that forward.”

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