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Austin's Army

October 30, 2019 - 2:34pm
posted by Billie Owens in Austin's Army, news, corfu, pembroke, batavia, Alexander, east pembroke.


Since he was 17, Austin Heineman fought a rare childhood cancer and throughout the ordeal, "Austin's Army" of family, friends and supporters prayed for him, raised money for hospital bills, and tried to bouy his spirits.

At age 25, Heineman died Monday (Oct. 28) at a Buffalo hospice.

The first Facebook post about the legion of aides that would grow to hundreds of people was posted on St. Patrick's Day in 2012. The accompanying photo shows a resolute and unsmiling Austin side-by-side with a little sister; arms folded across their chests in body language that is universally decoded as a barrier to something negative -- like his disease, desmoplastic small round cell tumors.

The community rallied to help one of their own -- a hunter, buddy, fisherman, dirt biker, gamer, cinephile, schoolmate.

Race car driver Billy Burd painted a tribute to Austin and his Army on his vehicle that said: "In This Life There's No Surrender."

The McNutt family had an ATV in the 2012 Fourth of July Parade in Warsaw (Wyoming County) in tribute to Austin and his Army.

They offered countless prayers, mailed him get-well cards and held fundraisers.

A puppy helped, too. He got a buff-colored one when they first shaved his head after chemo.

The Alexander High School Varsity Cheerleaders hosted a benefit varsity boys' basketball game: Alexander Trojans vs. Letchworth. There were 50/50 raffles, half-court shootouts, a bake sale and gift certificates donated by local businesses.

"Amanda's Rage Cranking It Up For Austin" was a rock band fundraiser. Naturally, there were chicken BBQ fundraisers, including one held at the East Pembroke Volunteer Fire Department.

They went on an Austin's Army mud run, a Dirty Girl Mud Run. Oakfield students went Bald for Bucks in his name. One Oakfield student was inspired to hold a children's book drive for patients at Roswell Cancer Institute after meeting Austin.

The former Batavia tattoo and piercing shop Laughing Buddha held a piercing fundraiser. City Slickers Bar & Grill (now Ken's Charcoal Pits) held a Facebook fundraiser.

Teens at Batavia High School joined Austin's Army. Students at Notre Dame paid $3 for the privilege of "dressing down" one day for a fundraiser in Austin's honor.

People sold bracelets, and items from Pampered Chef and Partylite. They cut their hair for Locks of Love. The ladies at the (former) Genesee County Nursing Home held a bake sale.

They went all camo in Pembroke schools to show their support. Little kids camouflaged their faces with paint and at least one boy, "Pete," sported a spiked Mohawk with the concealing design.

They sold dark khaki-colored T-shirts that read Austin's Army on the front and An Army of Hope on the back (in Army font of course). They sent in vacation photos from Florida and a school sightseeing trip to Boston proudly wearing them.

And another T-shirt was offered with Invictus on the back (Latin for unconquerable or undefeated) from the title of Victorian poet William Ernest Henley's stoical poem.*

The Army pumped themselves up for their mission with the battle cry song Soldiers (2011) by Otherwise. It was Austin's handpicked "beating cancer anthem." As one friend wrote: "...Keep fighting...we are all fighting with you." 

The battlefield was strewn with: operations; medical trips to New York City and Maryland; rounds of chemotherapy and the nausea that follows; blood transfusions; bone-marrow transplants; a blood infection; double pneumonia; endless IVs; tests; CAT scans; PET scans; pain; foot-dragging insurance companies, and more of course.

A lot of encouragement in the trenches was warranted and received -- as one person wrote: "No matter how hard it may get, we will be with you every step of the way. We will never give up on you. We are your rock. Your strength, determination, and courage are an inspiration to all of us. Stay strong!"

The Heineman family will receive friends tomorrow (Oct. 31) from 4 to 8 p.m. at the Michael S. Tomaszewski Funeral & Cremation Chapel at 4120 W. Main Street Road, Batavia. A graveside service will be held at 11 a.m. Friday, Nov. 1, at Evergreen Hill Cemetery in Corfu.

For the full obituary, click here.

(Photo from Austin's Army Facebook page.)

Out of the night that covers me 
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance,
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbow’d.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find me, unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.
January 19, 2013 - 1:07pm
posted by Alecia Kaus in Alexander, Austin's Army.

The parking lot at Alexander High School was packed with cars and people from all over the Genesee County community. Folks came out to give their support to an 18 year old 2012 Pembroke High School graduate who has been battling a rare juvenile cancer since last February.

The fundraiser for Austin Heineman during last night's Alexander Boys Basketball match-up with Lyndonville was organized by the Alexander Varsity Cheerleading squad.

"I wanted the girls to see what it's like to give back to the community," Varsity Cheerleading Coach Erin Coles said. "This is their chance to shine for a second, I just didn't expect this many people here." 

Admission was free. Donation buckets, 50/50 raffle, a half-court basketball shoot, a bake sale, and the sale of Austin's Army T-shirts and wristbands collected a total of $1,500 for the night. All proceeds will go toward Austin's medical expenses. 

Austin was scheduled to be at the fundraising event, but had to go to Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo for stem cell replacement yesterday morning. 

Doctors want to boost his platelet count to prepare him for a bone marrow transplant next week at the National Institute of Health in Bethesda, Md. 

According to Tricia Heineman, Austin's aunt, they have found two good candidates for the bone marrow transplant.

"He has the best attitude -- if there was one to make it through this, it would be him," Tricia Heineman said.

The Alexander Boys Basketball Team defeated Lyndonville 59-39 to make the night complete.

To keep updated about Austin's condition go to www.facebook.com/austinsarmy

August 16, 2012 - 11:56am
posted by Timothy Walton in pembroke, cancer, Austin's Army.

"You never really think that cancer could reach your child," Jamie Wasieleski said.

For her, it's become more than just a thought. It's become a reality. Her son, 18-year-old Austin Heinemen, was recently diagnosed with it.

A 2012 graduate of Pembroke, he has always been a healthy kid, into sports, dirt-biking and active all year round, and was unexpectedly diagnosed with a desmoplastic small round cell tumor also known as DSRCT.

It's a rare form of childhood cancer that predominantly strikes boys and young adults. DSRCT is a soft-tissue sarcoma that is aggressive and primarily develops in the abdomen.

Treatment for DSRCT is extensive.

"He has been through six intensive chemotherapy sessions that last four days every three weeks," Wasieleski told us. "The chemo kills everything, good and bad, so between chemo sessions he's at Roswell with anything from a cut on the finger, which leads to a pretty nasty infection, to pneumonia."

On the bright side, the chemo has made a difference and as a result of the PET and CAT scans, the tumors are shrinking.

Currently, Austin is waiting for his mother's health insurance to approve him to undergo surgery in New York City. He will have the tumors removed, and then will go through a 28 day stem cell trial. Following that, he will head to Washington, D.C., for another bone marrow trial.

"His father, myself and his three sisters have tested to see if we are a match and (we are) awaiting results," Wasieleski said. "If we are not, we will be looking for matches elsewhere."

The community support has been outpouring for Austin and he's got a whole army behind him fighting the battle.

" 'Austin's Army' was created to show Austin community support and how many people care about him," Wasieleski said. "At a time like this, community support is huge."

"All the help and support by the community is awesome and well deserving for him," says long-time friend Wyatt Chittenden. "With his recent diagnosis of cancer, it was heartfelt by everyone close to Austin because everyone knows how great of a person Heineman is. He always can put a smile on your face and give you a good laugh as well as always being there for people."

Austin's Army has done many fundraisers to help including a chicken barbecue, benefit gathering, piercing drive, and most recently a Facebook promotion at City Slickers.

Anyone interested, may join the army by making a donation to Austin and Austin's Army, through the Five Star Bank in Batavia.

Photo: Austin at one of his benefits with friend Kaela McMartin, who is one of the many members of Austin's Army.

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