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Wrestlers grappling with pediatric cancer

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By Greg Woods

sports@hclocal.com

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Editor's note: In a previous version of this story, the number of tickets available through the HC athletes was incorrect. The total number available is 400.

A Tennessee man with local roots has worked tirelessly over the last three months to bring a professional wrestling event to New Castle.

Shane Tipton is not doing it for profit and he is not doing it totally out of sentimental longing for his childhood home. Tipton is doing it for kids with cancer.

Tipton grew up in Oldham County but had several relatives in Henry County. Kenny and Mary Jo Jeffries were his aunt and uncle. He spent many summers working and playing on their farm on Fallen Timber Road with his cousin Loren Jeffries.

“I graduated from Oldham County High School in 1989,” Tipton said. “My dad, Ray Tipton, was born and raised in Henry County and was a three-sport letter winner in baseball, basketball and track at HCHS.

“Loren and I were born exactly one week apart so we had a special bond growing up. I even considered transferring to Henry County at one time.”

Tipton went to Western Kentucky University on a baseball scholarship but later transferred to Cumberland University in Lebanon, Tennessee. He met his wife there and still lives there today as a history teacher and baseball coach. They had a daughter, Ali who was diagnosed with a brain tumor on Jan. 19 2012.

 “The tumor was not considered cancerous at the time but was in her brain stem and needed to be removed,” Tipton said. “After two nine-hour surgeries in four days, it was partially removed. Over the next three years, we battled with the tumor being stable, growing, being stable and then growing again.”

Ali’s tumor went from a grade 1 ganglioglioma to a grade 4 glioblastoma in April 2016 because of a BRAF gene mutation found in her body. The overactive protein contributed to the growth of cancers by allowing abnormal cells to grow and divide without external signals.

The constant battle to keep the tumor under control was emotionally exhausting for the entire family. Ali was in chemo on three separate occasions.

“Her entire high school career was spent dealing with this thing and it sucked,” Tipton said. “We were fortunate to be connected with so many people and organizations that helped us out in our time of need. When insurance denies a certain chemo, or your driving to Vanderbilt every day for six straight weeks, or just need time off work because time spent with your child is more important, times get tough. It’s hard, it’s emotional and it’s frustrating, your nerves are shot and some days you don’t know if you are coming or going.”

Ali’s fight with the tumor was lost in June 2017 when she was 20 years old.

Tipton said that the cancer that took his daughter’s life, glioblastoma, was the same that took the life of U.S. Senator John McCain.

After their family’s battle with cancer, Tipton and his wife, Ashley, decided to turn a negative into a positive.

“At the end of the day, Ashley and I felt led to give back and provide some hint of hope so that we may free up that financial burden in order for families to concentrate on making everlasting memories and not wondering how they are going to pay the mortgage,” Tipton said.

Tipton and his wife started the Rae of Hope Foundation to raise money for families dealing with pediatric cancer.

One of the ways they have found to raise money was through professional wrestling.

“I grew up watching wrestling,” Tipton said. “That was a definite on Saturdays. You can bet at noon, every Saturday on WAVE-3 we were watching Memphis-based CWA (Continental Wrestling Association) that included the likes of Jerry The King Lawler, Bill Superstar Dundee, Handsome Jimmy Valiant, the Gilberts, The Fabulous Ones and, of course, Jeff Jarrett.”

Tipton said that Hall of Fame wrestler Jarrett’s father, Jerry Jarrett, another wrestling legend, was a promoter for CWA.

“I enjoy wrestling so much that I thought it would be cool to have a wrestling event to raise money for the foundation,” Tipton said. “Jeff Jarrett is from Hendersonville, which is about five or ten minutes away from where I teach.

“I saw his booking/contact info on Twitter so I decided to reach out and see what happened.”

Tipton and Jarrett also hooked up with Crimson from Tried and True Professional Wrestling and put together their first event on Aug. 10 in Hendersonville.

Tipton said Jarrett had his own personal story with the heartbreak of cancer.

“My first wife died of breast cancer in 2007,” Jarrett said in a phone interview. “Cancer touches every family if you live long enough.”

A return to Henry County for the funeral of his beloved aunt, Mary Jo Jeffries, earlier this year brought about the idea for an event in Henry County.

“When I was in New Castle for her funeral, I got to speaking with my cousin Diana Dunavan, who works closely with Relay for Life, about any families that might need assistance. She informed me of four school-aged children and one infant that are currently going through some type of cancer, so it’s something we really wanted to get involved in.”

“I’m familiar with Eminence and New Castle,” Jarrett added. “My grandmother and father promoted wrestling in the area starting in the 1970s and through the ‘90s. It makes it really special for me to be able to bring wrestling to a community that has been so impacted when you consider five families going through this battle.”

Tipton and Jarrett are excited about the lineup of wrestling stars they have for the event that will take place Jan. 12 at Roy L. Winchester Gymnasium at Henry County High School.

Doors will open at 5:30 p.m. for a VIP meet and greet. At 6:30 p.m. the doors open for general admission and the wrestling action begins at 7:30 p.m.

“We have a group of top notch performers and television-worthy talent coming to this event,” Tipton said. “Of course we have WWE and TNA Hall of Famer Jeff Jarrett, who will be there for the meet and greet, Crimson and Jax Dane who form War Kings that are managed by another WWE Hall of Famer Road Warrior Animal, Cowboy James Storm who will wrestle Nick Aldis for the NWA Heavyweight title in Clarksville one week before our event.

“We also have former WWE, ECW and Impact superstar Al Snow and Cali Young, the Tried and True Women’s Champion who wrestles for OVW, and won the title at our event in August. Crazy Steve and Jeremiah Plunkett will be wrestling each other in an extreme match where there is no disqualification and anything goes. Rob Conway, former WWE performer and former NWA heavyweight champion, will take on James Storm.”

Tipton said that HCHS athletes have 400 tickets to sell. So you can buy a ticket at the next high school ball game or anytime you see a Wildcat or Lady Cat.