Krisanna Roberts

“Your daughter has a tumor. We can’t really do anything for it here. You need to go to St. Jude’s Children’s research Hospital in Memphis.” With those words, 3 year old Krisanna Roberts’s life forever changed.

“All I knew about ST. Jude’s,” says Krisanna’s mom, “was that they had some big glass doors at the entrance that I’d seen in ads on television and that they took care of cancer patients. Krisanna was diagnosed with an Atypical Teratoid Rhabdoid Tumor, a rare aggressive brain tumor. A newly identified tumor in 1998, the cancer claimed the lives of it’s victims within six to twelve months after diagnosis. St. Jude doctors offered no odds for survival, but they did offer hope.

They offered to do everything they could to help Krisanna beat the tumor. Following a gross total resection, Krisanna underwent six weeks of cranial-spinal radiation and four months of high-risk chemotherapy. “Easter was truly the start of a new life,” Krisanna’s mom says about their return to Mobile on Easter morning that year, seven months following the original diagnosis.

For four years Krisanna and her parents traveled the roads to and from Memphis as St. Jude’s kept a close eye on Krisanna’s brain and her growth progress…first every three months, then every six months. The summer of 2002, just prior to the check-up that would graduate Krisanna to annual visits, the tumor returned. Thankfully, the research conducted at St. Jude’s in those four years suggested that another chemotherapy regimen might be effective against Krisanna’s tumor. This time the family was told that Krisanna was leading the pack. She was the longest surviving ATRT at St. Jude, so doctors could offer no statistics, no survival rates. Krisanna was the survival rate. However, they again offered hope and a promise of St. Jude’s resources. Again Krsanna underwent surgery to remove the tumor, and the new chemotherapy regimen followed. However, this time, Krisanna sustained a weakness on her left side during surgery.

When she awoke, she could move nothing on her lift side. Krisanna, by then an independent eight year old, determined to walk again. With the help of St. Jude’s hand-in hand with Springhill rehabilitation in Mobile, she was out of a wheelchair by Thanksgiving and walking without a can by Easter!

Life now presented challenges with the hemipariesis, stunted growth from the radiation treatments, and loss of peripheral vision, but Krisanna embraced each day with radiance and a zeal that affected each person she met. Trips back and forth to St. Jude continued…their watchful testing revealing two years later in 2004 that Krisanna’s tumor had returned a second time. This time, surgery was unsuccessful and discouraged doctors reluctantly said, “You’re cutting the time in half: four years, two years…at the most now, one year.” They said the upcoming holiday season would probably be her last. With heavy hearts and fervent prayer, the family returned home.

A month later doctors at St. Jude called to say they thought Krisanna was a candidate for a new type of surgery: radiosurgery. They had used the procedure successfully on other ATRT patients and, although it would be dangerous given the placement of her tumor, they were optimistic that the procedure would be successful. So, embracing the hope offered, Krisanna and her family returned to St. Jude the week before Thanksgiving in 2004 to undergo radiosurgery in an attempt to destroy the tumor.

Today, three years later, Krisanna is a lively fifth grade student at UMS_Wright. Thirteen years old, she still embraces each day with enthusiasm and zeal. She likes to read Nancy Drew books, she likes to go to physical therapy, and she likes to watch Rachael Ray and Iron Chef. But mostly, as she will tell you, she likes “to give people hugs and make people smile.”


Krisanna Roberts was our honoree in 2008. Just two short years later, I grieve the loss of our dear Krisanna. When I asked her to be our honoree, Krisanna embraced it as an honor, when in reality, the honor was ours. She reached out to her fellow classmates, friend and family and raised money for the tournament as well as selling tournament shirts. Krisanna attended as many events as she possibly could that year. I think those who attended the party that year will never forget her dancing the night away with Dan Brennan. What a gift she was to all who knew her.

The next year our honoree was Colby. Krisanna took it upon herself to continue to raise money for the tournament. The biggest gift she ever sent was each week out of her own allowance, she would send $1.00. Her mother, Laura, would mail them to me each month with a sweet note from Krisanna. The notes were always about how much she loved the tournament and how much fun she had being a part of them. She would always want to know how I was doing then, ended with how much she loved me.

Krisanna gave me courage, courage to put this tournament on. She made me know that I was fighting for something bigger than myself, or what I had been through with the loss of Kerri.
This year has been difficult to keep going, but I feel I must or it would be a disgrace to her fight.

So, I continue, but not without a heavy heart. Please join us in continuing to celebrate the lives of Kerri and now Krisanna. I believe this is what they would want us to do, so that one day we no longer will have the loss of these precious children. If you see yellow at the tournament it will be in memory of Krisanna, she loved yellow and told everyone to “have a sunny yellow day”.

Lora Castello