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Kingston Grenadiers Rally Against Brain Tumours

  June 20, 2024

This weekend, the Kingston Grenadiers Football Club will take on its toughest opponent yet—brain tumours. The club is hosting an event called Grens Tackle Tumours, which will see its under-16 (U16) and under-18 (U18) teams compete against the Oshawa Hawkeyes while raising funds and awareness for brain tumour research.

The event will feature booths that provide information about brain tumours, along with shoelaces and wristbands in BTFC’s signature orange and blue colours. Fun activities like face painting are also planned. The goal is to unite the community for a common cause—to #endbraintumours—while honouring the memory of a beloved coach and mentor, Dale Sands.

Dale passed away in March 2024, having battled a glioneuronal tumour for several years. He was a natural athlete who grew up playing baseball, basketball, and football, and eventually settled into a coaching career, according to his wife, Shawna. He started out coaching his kids, Ty and Mia, before becoming a coach for the Kingston Grenadiers Football Club, Frontenac Senior Secondary School, and later, for the football team at Queen’s University.

“Coaching was his passion,” says Shawna. “He just loved it.”

He was also known for his generosity and his kind heart, which is how Shawna wants him to be remembered.

“He was always a giver,” says Shawna. “He wasn’t a taker. He was a good father and a good husband. Just overall, a strong, independent man, with a loving family behind him.”

Dale’s son, Ty, has carried on his dad’s legacy as a defensive line coach for the Grenadiers’ U18 team. Also supporting the team and the cause at this weekend’s event will be honorary U18 captain, Robbie Watson, a 12-year-old germ cell tumour survivor. Robbie will suit up with the team and, just before kickoff, line up with the offense at the 50-yard line, take a handoff, and try to score a touchdown against the Oshawa defense.

It’s an experience the young athlete—who counts hockey, watching TV and movies, and his dog, Ruby, amongst his favourite things—is looking forward to. “Proud, excited and honoured” is how Robbie describes his participation in the event, following a challenging journey that began in 2021.

His family, who lives in Picton, Ont., had a trip planned to Niagara Falls when Robbie suddenly fell ill. He visited the hospital four times upon his return home before receiving his diagnosis, though he remained positive through it all.

“Don’t worry, Mom, I’m not going anywhere,” Robbie recalls saying.

Following six sessions of chemotherapy (the first on his birthday), 30 rounds of radiation, and four surgeries—one to remove his tumour, two to correct the vision problems that resulted from the initial surgery, and a more recent surgery to remove the plates and screws that had unattached from his skull—Robbie has certainly earned the title of SUPERKID.

“It’s nice to see the smile on his face,” says Robbie’s mom, Abby Watson. “When he gets off the bus at school every day, he says hello and high-fives everyone, gives a hug to some of the kids. Like his principal says, he is the light of that school. For someone who’s gone through so much, to have so much positivity, it’s amazing. And it’s amazing that he’s being recognized for it.”

Watch Robbie and the U16 and U18 Kingston Grenadiers tackle brain tumours, while bringing hope to all who are affected by a brain tumour diagnosis. Details of the event are below.

Grens Tackle Tumours

Date: Saturday, June 22, 2024
Time: U16 game is at 1 p.m. EST; U18 game is at 4 p.m. EST, with activities and a brain tumour Parade of Power taking place between games
Where: Richardson Stadium, Kingston, Ont.
Cost: Tickets are $8 for adults and free for kids under 12