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Tom Mix, Published April 17 2014

Next big goal for Kraft will be beating cancer

Fargo - Two months ago, Zach Kraft’s life took a dramatic turn.

The 20-year-old junior hockey player, who is a 2012 graduate of Fargo North High School, was diagnosed in February with glioblastoma multiforme – an aggressive Stage 4 brain cancer.

Just like that, Kraft went from playing juniors – with the hopes of competing at the collegiate level – to fighting cancer.

A golf ball-sized tumor was removed from his brain, which came back malignant, prompting the diagnosis. And since then, Kraft has been staying positive – a very tough task considering the news he received Wednesday.

Kraft, who has experienced concussion-like symptoms since being hit in a game two weeks prior to his cancer diagnosis, complained of a migraine headache several days ago and went in for another brain scan.

The results were not good. The cancer had aggressively returned.

“It looks as though the cancer has spread back to the same area,” Kraft said. “I’m probably going to go somewhere else for treatment coming up here soon. That is the plan so far.”

Kraft said the hit he suffered in the game two months ago was more or less a blessing in disguise in that it indirectly led him to both brain scans, which had he not undergone might have led to different outcomes from where he stands presently.

Primary treatment for glioblastoma multiforme is surgery, and once the procedure was completed in Duluth, Minn., Kraft returned home to Fargo.

Kraft, who lost his mother, Scarlet, to breast cancer when he was 10 years old, said with the cancer returning, he’ll likely have to undergo chemotherapy treatments in the very near future.

“This is a little bit of setback, but nothing is ever over,” Kraft said. “That is what I have learned with this. … Right now, I just have to take it step by step, which includes overcoming the cancer.”

Part of that step-by-step process for Kraft has been receiving endless support from family, friends, current and former teammates and coaches.

Kraft gained attention playing on the 2011-12 North boys hockey team that won a state championship. The then-Spartans forward scored 12 goals in his senior season – the final goal being the game-winner of the state title game against Grafton in double overtime.

So when word spread that Kraft needed support, thousands answered.

The Wisconsin Wilderness – a member of the Superior International Junior Hockey League and the team Kraft most recently played for – hosted a benefit for Kraft that raised $8,500. The Austin Bruins of the North American Hockey League – a league Kraft played in last year as a member of the Aberdeen (S.D.) Wings – raised $8,000.

The Fargo Force also honored Kraft at their regular-season finale.

“It has been unbelievable to see the support I have received,” Kraft said. “They have encouraged me. … The love and support that I have gotten really does help with everything I’m going through. It really means a lot. It’s really opened my eyes and given me a different perspective.”

The support continues at 5 p.m. today, with the Zach Kraft Benefit hosted at El Zagal Shrine and Teamsters Ice Arena.

El Zagal will be the site of a silent auction and potato bar. Teamsters Arena hosts an exhibition hockey game featuring members of the 2011-12 North hockey team. There is a $20 fee for those playing in the exhibition game, which North boys hockey head coach Rob Aasand said will last until the lights are shut off.

“To involve the sport we all love in helping one of our members is a just a bonus,” Aasand said. “You can go through all this and point out all the negatives, but when you bring something you love (like hockey) to an event like this, it makes it so much better. Zach loves the game, and we are going to use it.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Tom Mix at (701) 241-5562

How you can help Zach Kraft

What: Zach Kraft benefit

When: 5 p.m. today

Where: Silent Auction and Potato Bar at El Zagal Shrine located at 1429 3rd St. N. Exhibition hockey game with the 2012 Fargo North state championship team at Teamsters Ice Arena located at 831 17th Ave. N.

Info: There is a $20 player fee for the exhibition hockey game. Donations to Kraft can be made in direct cash or checks payable to the Zach Kraft Benefit Fund at Bell State Bank locations in Fargo. Online donations can be made at: www.dakmed.ord/lendahand. Click donate and enter gift amount next to Zach Kraft Benefit Fund. Lend A Hand Program is providing $5,000 in matching funds.