EDITOR'S NOTE: Fifth in a series
By RICHARD DYMOND
MANATEE -- Most of the Bradenton Marauders' "All-Stars Among Us" winners may be content to just stand near home plate when they are honored Saturday for their impacts on the local community at the Florida State League All-Star game.
But one will be fighting the urge to run the bases.
West Bradenton resident Dana Pounds, an above-the-knee amputee who has been named an All-Star in youth education, says she feels as if she has been running her entire life -- and can't stop now.
Today, she has a good lead on the Desmoids Tumor Cancer discovered when she was just 26, but she knows the cancer is also running inside her.
After battling this rare
disease for 10 years, her right leg was amputated in 2010. In 2013, she learned that the cancer had returned in her hip and pelvis. She is now participating in a clinical trial with the National Cancer Institute in Washington, D.C. and making trips almost every month to see if chemotherapy is shrinking her tumor. Her last visit to the Institute was April 18.
"They determined the tumor in my hip and pelvis has reduced 23 percent," an excited Pounds said last week. "It was like a softball and now it is like a baseball. So, everything is encouraging."
The tumor has shrunk so much that her limb has gotten smaller. She is in the process of being outfitted with a new running leg, which is supposed to be ready by mid-June, around the time of the All-Star game.
"Oh boy, I would be super excited if I could run the bases at McKechnie Field," Pounds said. "But I have to wait for the parts to be assembled. You can't rush it. You have to be patient and let it all develop."
Pounds will receive $500 from the Marauders and $500 for the charity of her choice, which is her own Nature's Academy Inc.
Despite her personal challenges, Pounds is not deterred from her mission to bring experiential science education to area youth. She is founder, board chair, chief executive officer and executive director for Bradenton's Nature's Academy.
Founded in 2007, Nature's Academy reaches area fifth-graders by taking them on field trips that include water testing, plant and animal species identification and even dissection of dead animals.
"Our goal is to deliver annual field trips to all Manatee County fourth- and fifth-graders by 2020," said Pounds, who calculates that 58 percent of Manatee County fifth-graders lack proficiency in science.
"Many of these students have never been to the beach, never mind experiencing marine and environmental education," Pounds said.
As an example of the programs Pounds runs, she is hosting students from the Manatee County Migrant Head Start program June 16-18 at Coquina Beach, including a shark dissection from 9:30 a.m. to noon Wednesday at Coquina Beach on June 18.
"We will also do dip netting, water quality measurements and coastal cleanup," Pounds said.
In addition to scientific learning, Pounds' students have collected an estimated 4,000 pounds of litter from local shores.
Pounds was recently awarded the 2014 Florida Wildlife Federation Conservation "Educator of the Year" award.
"If Dana Pounds isn't a community all-star, I don't know who would qualify," said Marlow Moore Fairbanks, who is collaborating with Pounds on her memoir of life with cancer and her dream of bringing science literacy to future generations. "I hope Bradenton sees in Dana what is so obvious. She is a hometown hero who has touched the lives of 100,000 students and counting. She gives her passion and her indefatigable energy to the lives of people in her community.
"She is a perfect example of what an All-Star is all about."
Richard Dymond, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7072 or contact him via Twitter @RichardDymond.