Ethan Frank answers questions from Hedrick students during an internet call at a school assembly on Thursday. [Mail Tribune / Jamie Lusch]

A humble win

Described by his friends as "humble," "nice" and "cheerful," Ethan Frank appears to be an ordinary student at Hedrick Middle School. He plays the trumpet in the school's marching band. He's in school team 83. His favorite college football team is the Ducks.

But what none of his friends at school knew was that Ethan had cancer. He underwent brain surgery in 2016 after doctors found a tumor.

"Ethan did struggle in the beginning of the school year," said Loni Strong, Ethan's English teacher last year. "He went out of his way to make sure all of his friends thought he was just a normal kid. He'd cover up any struggle, so these guys didn't even know. We thought it was completely brave and strong for somebody so young like Ethan."

After having a seizure at his home in April 2016, Ethan was transferred to Doernbecher Children's Hospital in Portland. His tumor was benign, according to a hospital press release. He recovered, and he went on with his life quietly.

"Some kids enjoy the attention," Strong said. "Ethan was not like that."

Living with a secret in his head, Ethan also carried around a secret project in his pocket for a year.

Joining two other young Oregon cancer survivors last July, Ethan spent a year working with Nike and the Oregon Ducks football players to design the team's uniforms for the game against Nebraska on Saturday. From the helmet, jersey, gloves and pants to socks and shoes, the trio designed the uniform with slogans and images that represent their journey.

#StompOutCancer is the main theme of the campaign, with a picture of the University of Oregon's mascot about to stomp on the word "Cancer."

Ethan designed the gloves, putting the word "Overcome" across the knuckles. In an interview with Doernbecher, he said the idea was inspired by his tumor.

"I was thinking of how I had to overcome obstacles when I was trying to fight off the tumor. Overcome means overcome your fears," he said, according to the hospital's blog.

Doernbecher Children's Hospital has partnered with Nike for 14 years, giving its patients an opportunity to design and develop footwear and apparel. The profits go back to Doernbecher to help fund pioneering medical research, purchase equipment and recruit leading specialists, according to Nike's press release. The program has raised $17 million so far.

On Thursday afternoon, over 1,000 Hedrick students surprised Ethan with a secret assembly on campus via Skype while he was at the Nike compound in Portland celebrating the launch of the gear he designed.

"We are so proud of you and your journey," said Beth Anderson, Hedrick's principal. "You did something amazing."

All of his teachers, including Strong, were proudly wearing shirts with his other slogan on it: "Win the day. Win the fight." Those slogans also appear on the Nike pants.

"This whole experience ... It's unbelievable. I have never seen anything like it," Ethan told the crowd via Skype. "Thank you."

Tonka Wilson, 13, plays the trombone alongside with Ethan in the school's band. Tonka said he didn't learn about Ethan's cancer until a day before the rally.

"Man, when I first learned about it, I was worried about him, but now I'm so happy for him. He deserves this so much," Tonka said. "The first thing I'd do when he gets back here is to give him a big high five."

— Reach reporting intern Tran Nguyen at 541-776-4485 or



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