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Padecky: Casa kicker scores in boy's leukemia fight

  • Place kicker Matt Abramo, right, jogs around to keep limber during Casa Grande High School varsity football practice, in Petaluma, Calif., on October 3, 2013. Abramo is collecting sponsors and raising money to help pay medical costs for 12-year-old Leukemia patient C.J. Banaszek, grandson of offensive line coach Cas Banaszek. (Alvin Jornada / The Press Democrat)

PETALUMA - It's a shame, really, that youth is wasted on the young. That's what people say who have spent some time on this planet. Adolescence is a self-absorbed, high-energy romp in a world that extends out about as far as their nose. The real world? It's out there somewhere. My dad says I have to check it out. Later, dad.

Matt Abramo never had that conversation with his father, Arnie, or his mother, Karin. Abramo never had to take the blinders off because he never had them on. Abramo, Casa Grande's placekicker, never thought much about it either. It wasn't like he thought himself special. Stuff happened to him but, well, stuff happens to everyone. Right?

It's just that Abramo paid attention to his stuff.

Matt Abramo

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"I saw what they went through," said the Casa junior. "It was horrible. Just horrible."

His grandmother, Maridale, died of breast cancer in 2011. Koda, his beloved Bernese Mountain dog, died in March 2012. Abramo was imprinted by them when they were alive and now, it feels as if their names are tattooed on his arm. The kid feels, OK?

Now it's fall 2012, and C.J. Banaszek is leading the Gauchos to midfield before a game. Banaszek is the 11-year-old grandson of Casa assistant coach and once stellar 49ers offensive tackle Cas Banaszek. C.J. was in his second year battling leukemia. The team dedicated its 2012 season to C.J. Grandpa was honest with the players.

"Every day is a bonus," said the 67-year-old who played 10 years for the 49ers.

The 2012 season ended but Abramo wasn't ready. He wanted to continue playing, which isn't that unusual, but the reason was.

"I felt inspired to keep playing because I was playing for C.J.," Abramo said.

Abramo remembered where he was when the idea came to him. He was in the family car, entering northbound 101 from Petaluma's southernmost entry point.


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