Join your friends and neighbors for a benefit this Sunday, December 2, at the Speedway Event Center. Have a meal together, play Holiday Bingo,... Benefit Tomorrow for Axel Toft – Grandson of Curt and Diane Berkner

Join your friends and neighbors for a benefit this Sunday, December 2, at the Speedway Event Center. Have a meal together, play Holiday Bingo, and support 2 year-old Axel Toft who has been diagnosed with leukemia. Axel and his twin brother, Tycho, are the sons of Eric and Jackie (Berkner) Toft and the grandsons of Curt and Diane Berkner and Phil and Rhonda Toft.

Axel’s mom, Jackie, says, “In early September, both twins came down with what they thought was a virus, but Axel’s lasted six days longer than his brother’s. The lymph node under his arm was also swollen and his abdomen was distended.

Concerned, the Tofts took Axel to the doctor, where he underwent a series of tests. The doctors weren’t concerned and prescribed antibiotics. But during the course of the antibiotics, the toddler remained lethargic and unwell. At his follow-up appointment, blood tests were ordered as well as a stomach and chest x-ray. The x-rays showed his spleen and liver were enlarged and the blood tests indicated his platelet count was below 10 – the normal range is 140-400.

Axel was transferred to The Castle (Sanford Children’s Hospital in Sioux Falls) where he was diagnosed with leukemia. Unfortunately, that was on a Friday afternoon, and the family had to endure a long weekend before they would find out which type of leukemia Axel has.

On Monday October 1, Axel underwent a bone marrow extract and it was determined he has Pre B-Cell Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia or (ALL). “ALL is the most common and curable leukemia with an over 95% survival rate. The likelihood that he will lead a life free of related determinants after being cured is equally good,” Jackie said.

Axel endured a spinal tap, also known as a lumbar puncture, to allow for the administration of chemotherapy and facilitate the extraction of fluids to test for leukemia. He was also put on a steroid for 30 days which has caused side effects including a swollen face and belly, uncontrollable emotions, and leg and foot pain. This has made it difficult for him to walk, sit, or kneel. “He has tolerated everything so well for being so little. He doesn’t understand what is going on,” Jackie said.
She also reports Axel’s bone marrow tests came back clear. “Axel is officially in remission!” And, although the family still needs to make weekly trips to Sioux Falls, Jackie says, “Axel is happier, more energetic and active. He tries to play and have fun with the other kids – something we’ve missed seeing. The leg pain is still holding him back and will likely persist for a few weeks, but it will subside along with the general steroid-induced swelling. Slow and sure, Axel is becoming his old self again!”

The news that Axel is in remission is a huge relief, but the road ahead is still long and filled with tests, treatments, and doctor visits. Money raised at the fundraiser on Sunday will help defray his medical and travel expenses. Can’t make it to the fundraiser but want to donate? An account for Axel has been set up at First bank & Trust or Axel’s Fight Club t-shirts are also available. Order at Street Graphix or online at

Sunday’s meal will be served from 10:30 a.m. until 1 p.m. at Speedway in downtown Milbank. Holiday Bingo begins at 1 p.m. Bingo cards are three for one dollar. Play for a win for this sweet, curly-haired, little twin!

Staff Writer

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