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Community Community Encinitas News

Family of ‘Mighty Max’ asking for stolen plaque to be returned

ENCINITAS — Every day, Natalie Young said she would walk along Cardiff State Beach past what looks like a concrete tree stump, and would touch the bronze plaque adhered to it.

The plaque had three dolphins, one of which was a baby dolphin. That baby dolphin represented her son, Max Spartacus Kleckner.

Max, known throughout Cardiff-by-the-Sea as “Mighty Max,” galvanized the entire community as he bravely fought against a rare form of cancer in true superhero form until his death in 2012. The family affixed the plaque at the beach location, which they called “Spartacus Point,” so they could daily remember Max. Friends would leave things, flowers, shells, chocolate donuts and keepsakes in his memory.

Then, over the New Year’s holiday, the plaque disappeared. Young says she hasn’t been back since.

“I was shocked, I got to about a quarter mile out, and I could see that all the stuff on top (of the structure) was missing,” she said, fighting back tears. “I just sat on the pylon and had a big cry. I haven’t walked there since. I haven’t been able to go back.”

The Kleckner family is asking the community rally once more to help return Max’s memorial plaque.

The bronze plaque attracts dozens of visitors each day who drop off flowers, a shell, or to just remember the Mighty Max.

Max was diagnosed at age four with embryonic-type rhabdomyosarcoma, a rare form of cancer that ultimately spread into his bone marrow.

The family explained to Max that his “superhero cells” were going to battle the “bad guy” cells invading his body. When Max had a chemotherapy port placed under the skin of his chest, his parents told him it was his “superhero port.”

After his first round of treatment, Max had what his parents described in 2010 as a “normal year” but then the cancer returned, and the community rallied once more. They held a benefit in 2010 at the Cardiff Town Center to help the family defray the mounting medical costs.

The townsfolk even dressed the famed Cardiff Kook statue as Superman in honor of Max and his valiant fight.

Max continued to fight the cancer until Dec. 24, 2012, when he passed away on Christmas Eve.

The story of his valiant fight persists on several online blogs, a video essay and a website set up in his honor,

“Max was a soul that no one could touch, had a heart …as big as the moon, and was the kindest person I’ve ever known,” said one of his best friends, 12-year-old Shawlin Tucker. “Max wanted to inspire others, that was one of his main goals in life, even when the cancer was at his peak he always tried to keep a smile on his face and tell everyone “I’m gonna make it.’”

And, of course, there was Spartacus Point, where people in town could visit, shed a tear, or laugh about a memory they had with their friend.

“Time doesn’t seem to make any of it better,” Young said. “So I don’t think the theft made any of the wounds worse, per se, I think it took away a place where I could go when it hurts.”

The family asks for anyone who knows about or has the plaque to please return it to Spartacus Point or at Seaside Market.


This story has been updated since its original posting.

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Jamie Waller January 9, 2015 at 1:32 pm

Can’t we just donate to have a new plaque made for this brave little boy.
I am a resident of Cardiff and I currently have son undergoing chemo for cancer at this moment.
I am willing to donate to this cause. Let’s all rally together to get this done.
This hits a little to close to home for me.
Let me know please.

Jamie Waller

Natalie (Max Spartacus's mom) January 13, 2015 at 5:01 pm

Hi Jamie,
Im so sorry to hear that your son is going thru cancer treatment. My hopes and prayers are with you and your family. Although our cancer journey with Max was long and filled with so much suffering, it was also over flowing with love and happiness. We made every minute count, my husband made a vow with Max that for every “suck” day in the hospital we had an “unsuck” day. We pushed ourselves to ensure that Max got to experience an adventure of a life time in just a few years. His incredible love of life and people made every moment a treasure that will be with me forever.
I thank you for your offer of support, we will be getting a new plaque for Max, probably not a bronze one that is subject to theft, but Spartacus point will go on.
If you ever need a friend to talk to about your son I am here for you.
kindest regards

Christian McCart January 9, 2015 at 3:46 pm

Hello Im with Jamie Waller Im also from Cardiff and have a Charity NDM We would like to help in this cause as well.Please contact us at Thanks Christian

Natalie (Max Spartacus's mom) January 13, 2015 at 5:06 pm

Thank you so much for your kind offer. We are planning to replace the plaque but are not looking for donations. Any and all donations would be welcome for pediatric cancer research to help save these little angels. My favorite team is the Childrens Cancer Therapy Development Institute, they were very supportive to me during my 5yrs of treatment research for Max’s cancer.

Christian McCart January 9, 2015 at 3:47 pm

Hello Im with Jamie Waller Im also from Cardiff and have a Charity NDM We would like to help in this cause as well.Please contact us at Thanks Christian

Juan Dorta-Duque January 9, 2015 at 4:25 pm

I believe you are right, let’s get a new one made. Let God deal with the thief! If you need someone to pitch in, let me know.

Juan Dorta-Duque

Natalie (Max Spartacus's mom) January 13, 2015 at 5:06 pm

Thank you Juan. Spartacus point will live on!

Tyler Brown January 13, 2015 at 10:16 pm

such a bummer someone would take that. I’ll put the word out. God bless you and your family Natalie:)

Aaron January 14, 2015 at 8:26 am


If possible, can you please contact me at 760-815-4967. I’m the reporter who wrote the story.

Aaron Burgin

Carol Keating January 14, 2015 at 8:41 am

Love and admire you both. Those who taketh away must answer, at some point, to their maker. The value of the plaque is not in its mineral content but in the memories of Max.

Comments are closed.