Gabe Sipos with guitar

Gabe Sipos with an acoustic guitar he had made last August at a retreat at Narrow Gate Lodge in Maury County

At 8 years old and as a second-grader at Longview Elementary School in Spring Hill, Gabe Sipos nailed an audition that gave him a speaking role in the 2011 movie “Country Strong.”

Sipos, who is now headed to Austin Peay University after graduating with the Summit High School Class of 2020, had survived childhood cancer and was among several Make-A-Wish children who were playing extras in the film that was shot in Nashville and stars Gwyneth Paltrow, Tim McGraw, Garrett Hedlund, and Leighton Meester.

Sipos had a brief speaking role with Paltrow and his appearance gave him the opportunity to go to Los Angeles for the movie’s premiere, walk the red carpet, and hobnob with the stars.

The only thing missing for the youngster was, well, the movie. It wasn’t age-appropriate.

“When we went out to Hollywood for the premiere, he sat for part of the movie, but I took him out for some of the movie that wasn’t right for him at the time,” explained Sipos’ mother, Lu Sipos. “It was a little adult in nature.”

Sipos now gets the chance to see the whole film. It’s playing at the Franklin Theatre Thursday afternoon during its “pay-what-you-can” promotion to kick off its 10th anniversary of reopening, and he’ll be attending with a few of his friends.

“I think it’s going to be a fun experience for him to see it on the big screen,” Lu Sipos said. “He’s going with friends and he’ll probably experience some teasing, too. I think it’s going to be an unusual experience for him. He’s going to be watching himself from years ago.”

Gabe’s Chemo Duck

Sipos was a year old when he was diagnosed with cancer, and over the next two years or so he received chemotherapy and radiation treatment that ultimately disfigured his face and affected his voice. 

Throughout, however, Sipos grew out of the adversity and sought to help and inspire young children who were also going through the devastation of a cancer diagnosis and the ensuing treatment. 

One of the ways Sipos and his mother are helping support children and families living with cancer is through the program Gabe’s Chemo Duck, which was founded in 2004 by Lu.

More than 40,000 stuffed toy ducks have been produced since the program’s founding, helping introduce children and their families to their new life and encouraging healing through the power of play therapy.

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