Real Salt Lake supports young Utahn battling leukemia

RIVERTON, Utah -- Real Salt Lake’s Leo the Lion made a visit to Southland Elementary School in Riverton Wednesday to help 8-year-old Kohen Church, who's battling leukemia at the school's jog-a-thon.

Kohen was diagnosed with leukemia about a year ago following a trip to Disney World.

"He couldn't get off of the airplane when we landed home,” Michelle Church recalls. “We had to carry him off. We went right to the ER, just because his back was hurting him so bad. And at that point the cancer cells had packed his bone marrow so tight that it was putting so much pain in his body. So we were transferred to Primary [Children's Hospital], went to surgery the next day, had a port in place and here we are."

A friend of Kohen's reached out to RSL, hoping to show their support and draw awareness to this disease.

"We heard about Kohen a couple of days ago and we knew we had to come and support him,” said Keri Hale, the community liaison for the RSL Foundation." The players really wanted to come too, but of course practice makes it difficult, so they decided to sign a scarf and they also made a jersey for him. It's Kick Childhood Cancer month, so we are really pushing to spread awareness about childhood cancer."

Seeing all his second-grade friends chanting his name, and having Leo the Lion jog with him meant the world to Kohen.

“It was fun that I got to ride on him,” Kohen said. “I got to run with everyone that I like playing with too."

His mother was also grateful.

“It means the world to have all of our friends and our community, our school, people that I don't even know have reached out to us,” she said. “It's a very hard time to hear your kid has cancer, but it's amazing to see the support that we've gotten from everybody."

Doctors say they are 98 percent sure Kohen will be victorious in his battle with leukemia, and his family, along with Real Salt Lake, are fighting for a cure.