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Former Badgers lineman with sick son paying it forward

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BROOKFIELD — Steve Stark has some great memories as a former offensive lineman at the University of Wisconsin. Stark was a starter on the 1994 Rose Bowl championship team, and a team captain the next year.

Fast forward some 17 years, and Stark is now a successful trainer, coach and web designer. The Illinois native is a husband and father to four children. One of those youngsters, Kaden, is a sick little boy.

Kaden has a rare form of mitochondrial disease called Leigh syndrome. Leigh syndrome is a fatal progressive neurodegenerative disorder and there is currently no cure. This genetic disorder causes his brain to not get enough energy at times. That lack of energy production does damage to Kaden’s brain, which at this time causes Kaden to have motor issues.

Stark has taken and dished out plenty of hard hits on the football field, but he said getting the news about his son was the hardest hit ever.

Kaden is a smart kid who does great in school, but the disease effects his motor control, and is painful. 

The biggest issue caused by Kaden’s mitochondrial disease is Dystonia. Dystonia is an involuntary contracting of the muscles. Kaden could have a dozen muscles cramping at once and those cramps could last for days or even weeks. 

However, Kaden’s threshold is high and his heart is big. That’s why while the Badgers were beating Indiana earlier this month, Kaden and his family held a fundraiser for the Make A Wish Foundation of Wisconsin at Champps Americana in Brookfield. 

Fittingly, the fundraiser included some super silent auction items from Stark’s former coach, Barry Alvarez.

Last year, Kaden and his family were granted a wish. Now, with Kaden’s lead, the Starks want to pay it forward.

Meanwhile, there is now some hope for little Kaden. His doctors say there is a clinical trial of a drug that could make a difference in his life. The Starks will find out in December. For now, their son has taught them to enjoy every second of life.

CLICK HERE for more on Kaden’s Wish — created to raise money and awareness for the Make-A-Wish Foundation and the United Mitochondrial Disease Foundation.