A Mom Honors Her Son’s Osteosarcoma Fight by Creating Memorial Fund in His Name
Gavin’s legacy endures with the Gavin McClain Be Kind Fund, created by his family to help advance osteosarcoma research and education.

“Gavin never gave up fighting, so I’m not going to either.” — Nicole Klok

July 18, 2022, marks the first anniversary of Gavin’s passing.

Gavin, an “old soul” who loved the outdoors, was just starting to plan the rest of his life, working toward a career in diesel mechanics. But in January 2020, at the age of 17, an osteosarcoma diagnosis derailed those plans.

three people posing for a picture

Gavin (right) with his mom, Nicole, and friend Nate.

Searching for Support

Within three months of his diagnosis, the cancer had metastasized to his lungs. After aggressive chemotherapy, a limb salvage surgery on his knee and a sternotomy with bilateral lung resection surgery, Gavin’s prognosis was still poor. His oncology team was running out of options.

Desperate for guidance and support, his mom, Nicole Klok, turned to the internet. “I wanted to find anything that I possibly could,” she recalls. “I saw a post from the Osteosarcoma Institute (OSI) on Instagram about a Phase 2 clinical trial. I messaged them immediately and then spoke with them via the OSI hotline [now called OSI Connect].”

Gavin’s Extended Care Team

Within days, Nicole was speaking with Lee Helman, MD, OSI’s Director and an expert in the field. He fast-tracked Gavin and introduced him to Andrew Livingston, MD, the chief investigator for the clinical trial at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. It was exactly what Gavin and his family were looking for.

Just one week passed between Nicole’s first contact with the OSI and her conversation with Dr. Livingston. “Dr. Livingston called us from his home on a Friday evening to chat with us about options and told us, ‘Come on down. I want to see Gavin in person.’”

Dr. Helman and OSI Connect became the extended care team the family needed.

“The OSI was there when we were desperately searching for answers,” says Nicole. “The care, attentiveness and compassion, just the sheer genuine kindness, is something you don’t find every day.”

After a Sliver of Hope, a Rapid Decline

Knowing that the cards were stacked against them, Gavin and his family were still determined to act on this sliver of hope. They traveled from their hometown in Grand Rapids, Michigan, to Houston to enroll in the trial — exhausted yet hopeful.

But the day when he would start the novel drug treatment, it became clear that Gavin’s health was rapidly declining. Nicole says, “Dr. Livingston told us, ‘I’m willing to fight if you want to fight. But my fear is, if I do this, you’ll never be able to go home and I know that’s not what you want.’”

On July 14, Gavin made the ultimate decision to return home to Michigan. Two days later, his family packed their bags and drove through the night, hardly stopping. When they got home, hospice was waiting for them. Gavin passed away peacefully that Sunday morning.

“In the end, Gavin fought the way he wanted to fight, right up until his very last breath,” says Nicole.

Keeping Promises to Gavin

Today, Nicole stays busy with the promises she made to Gavin. One of those promises was to establish a memorial scholarship at the high school he attended in his name. Each year, the Gavin McClain Be Kind Memorial Scholarship will award $2,000 to a senior who has persevered through adversity. These funds will go towards college tuition, books and school supplies.

Gavin’s family started the Gavin McClain Be Kind Fund to raise osteosarcoma awareness and money for research. “One of the other things that he made me promise was that I would fight so that other kids have it better,” says Nicole. “Gavin never gave up fighting, so I’m not going to either.”

You can make a donation to honor Gavin and advance osteosarcoma research and education by clicking here.

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