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"Austin Strong" family bringing awareness in son's memory

Austin Smith, 6, passed away last May after battling Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma (DIPG) - a highly-aggressive form of brain cancer. May 17 will be DIPG Awareness Day across the state.

The phrase "Austin Strong" will forever resonate for the family of Austin Smith - and now his legacy will be recognized statewide.

CBS 2/FOX 28 first told you about Austin in March after a memorial fund created in his honor was stolen from Sally's On Broadway in Springville. The Austin Strong Foundation raises money and awareness for Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma (DIPG), an aggressive form of brain cancer that took Austin's life on May 20, 2016. Austin was just six years old.

The funds that were stolen have been recouped several times over - but a document signed in Des Moines on Thursday is a priceless one.

Governor Terry Branstad has declared that May 17 will be DIPG Awareness Day around the state of Iowa.

"To take it to a statewide level and actually get that recognition - and hopefully spread the word," Mikinzie Smith, Austin's mom, said on Thursday night. "People don't know what DIPG is and it's very important for awareness to get that word out there."

The third annual "Ride/Drive Like a Superhero" event is scheduled for next Sunday - a day after the first anniversary of Austin's passing - and will continue to raise funds for Austin Strong.

"We're not just fighting for Austin here today," Britt Smith, Austin's dad, added. "We're fighting for kids in the future that are unfortunately diagnosed with this disease. To know that he can have an impact on children's lives down the road and carrying on that legacy is what keeps us going as well."

But that legacy is also in a form that will last far longer than declarations and driving days. Colt Smith is Austin's baby brother - born just a few months after Austin's passing.

"(Colt) was Austin's wish. Austin wanted to be a big brother," Mikinzie said, "and watching him somehow makes us feel connected to Austin."


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