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5-year-old Ohio boy battling cancer inspires dad to run another Akron marathon, gets surprise message from 'Avengers' star: Stories of the heart

Kolt Codner is going the distance once again, but not just for his son -- it's for all kids bravely fighting childhood cancer.

AKRON, Ohio — Last October, Kolt Codner crossed the Akron Marathon finish line, running 26.2 miles around Akron Children's Hospital for his son, Andrew, and all other kids battling pediatric cancer.

“We took a little time and walked past Andrew’s unit … it was special," Kolt said through tears, at the time.

When we first met the Codner family, we learned Andrew was battling Lymphoblastic Leukemia. It was a scary experience for his parents, but Andrew's spirit continued to ease their fears.

“I came in after sedation and thinking, 'OK, he's going to be in a rough spot,' and he's just smiling happy as could be playing a game on his iPad. He goes, 'Hey dad, I got to tell you something.' I go, 'OK.' He goes, 'I love you.' I was like, 'Yeah, honey.' He was just happy as could be," Kolt said.

Still, 5-year-old Andrew deals with a lot with appointments and procedures. Some days are just rough.

“A couple of weeks ago, he had a real bad day of just the aches and back pain after steroids and he was starting to lose his hair," Andrew's mom, Tristan, said. "We started talking about what was gonna happen. He was gonna lose his hair. And, Kolt shaved his head."

Credit: Credit: Kolt Codner
Andrew Codner, 5, smiles in his hospital bed at Akron Children's Hospital while receiving treatment for cancer.

The Codners say they've been carried by the support of friends and family.

“On a daily basis, when we're going through our regular routines, that text message of, 'how's everything going,' you know, 'we're thinking about you today, do you need anything?'” Tristan said in appreciation.

And then there's the healthcare heroes. The heroes, caring for Andrew.

“We can't thank them enough. We walk into the hospital at Mahoning Valley and we walk into the hospital in Akron and it's like, you see your family members," Tristan said.

Kolt says that's why, despite raising nearly $20,000 for Akron Children's Hospital last October, he's going to go the distance again this fall.

“We had donations coming in from around the world to help support that effort," Kolt said. “It'll be my first real in-person race. So, that'll be a fun, fun experience."

Crossing the finish line this year, will feel even more special.

“Oh, it's going to be awesome. By that point, he should be in school and he'll be in kindergarten," Kolt said. “Hopefully, he's all done with treatment and we're up there ringing the bell and celebrating the end."

Andrew is brave, he's kind and he loves the Avengers. He's such a great kid that even Thor actor, Chris Hemsworth, took notice. With the help of Super Heroes to Kids in Ohio, the movie star sent a personal video to Andrew, saying:

"Hey there, Andrew. Just want to say, 'Hello, mate.' Hear you're a Marvel fan, that's fantastic. Thank you for that. But, I want to say from myself and all the Avengers buddy, you are an absolute inspiration."

These days, Andrew is doing well. He's continuing treatment and his parents couldn't be prouder of their boy.

“It's just amazing to see his bravery in all circumstances," Tristan said. “We're just incredibly proud of how far he's come and how far we've come as a family."

To help Kolt Codner achieve his marathon fundraising goal, click HERE.

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Editor's note: Video above is from Oct. 16, 2020.