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Starry Night Knoxville raising money for MRI goggles, benefits kids with brain tumors

The annual race is set for Sunday. The funds raised will help East Tennessee Children's Hospital have the technology to put fewer kids to sleep during MRIs.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — A group in Knoxville, focused on helping kids with brain tumors, is raising money for new tech to help ease the anxiety behind MRI scans.

Every day, 13 children are diagnosed with a brain tumor in the United States. Currently, over 28,000 kids across the country live with a brain tumor diagnosis. 

That number is unsettling for Sarah Hamilton. That's why she wants to raise money to help ease that pain.

Hamilton and her husband started Starry Night Knoxville because her son Brody was diagnosed with a brain tumor in 2015. He was in second grade.

The Hamiltons dedicate their time and efforts toward helping other families going through something similar.

"We didn't have really a network in Knoxville and we wanted to create one," Sarah Hamilton said. "So we reached out to the Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation to fundraise on behalf of them."

The annual race at Ijams Nature Center has raised tens of thousands of dollars in its six years.

"We have a lot of local kids that come to it from surrounding counties in East Tennessee, so it's really personal," Hamilton said.

Signs and lanterns to honor and remember kids touched by a brain tumor diagnosis line the walkway at the race each year. It serves as a reminder of the special cause.

The Phillips family shares that personal thread with so many other families in Knoxville, and helps to raise money with Starry Night each year.

"Starry Night Knoxville to us is community," Alana Phillips said. "Our daughter Tillery was diagnosed with a brain tumor in 2014 and we moved to Knoxville in 2016."

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Tillery has received multiple treatments and visited a slew of hospitals. One feature the Phillips family was surprised East Tennessee Children's Hospital didn't have was MRI goggles.

They gave the idea to raise money during this year's race for that special set of goggles at ETCH.

"Most kids with brain tumors have to have multiple MRIs over time of over life, and MRI goggles are an opportunity for kids to watch a movie while they're in the MRI machine," Alana Phillips said.

The goggles won't only benefit Tillery, but kids across the board who have to lay for those long scans. The goggles help relieve some stress related to the MRIs and staying still.

Credit: CinemaVision

It also would mean the hospital wouldn't have to sedate kids as often if this option was available.

"[Tillery] has been able to have MRIs while she was awake, and so to not have to put her under anesthesia one more time is just a huge, huge thing," Phillips said.

Donations and participation show those families walking through that battle that they are not alone. Both the Hamilton and Phillips families urge people to help out however they can.

"It helps us to see that people support us," Phillips said.

If you would like to donate, visit StarryNightKnoxville.org. If you would like to register for one of the races on Sunday, November 14, visit RunSignUp.com.

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