stories: phil, leah and a walk-a-thon

When I was a Junior in college my best friend and college roommate, Luke Voiles, was diagnosed with a rare form of liver cancer. He went from being a 6 foot 3, 220lb freak-of-nature college athlete to a 100 lb shell of a man in just eleven months.  After riding the rollercoaster with Luke, celebrating the highs of a liver transplant to morning the lows of feeding him strawberry yogurt just three days before he died, I made a promise to Luke and his legacy that I would do everything in my power to end this horrible disease. I shared Luke’s story with my class four years ago when I was having a really sad day. One of my students came up to me after class and asked me, “Why don’t you do something about it?” I took that challenge and ran with it.  Every year since then I have held a fundraiser for various cancer research foundations. When my wife Leah told me about Ben Towne Foundation, I began reading about Ben and the family’s story.  It hit home to me and Ben’s story was fairly similar to Luke’s.

When I found out Ben lost his battle with cancer when he was just three years old, I felt it would be special to pay tribute to his legacy by walking a 5k; one mile for every year Ben’s friends and family were blessed by his presence. Before the event I hosted an assembly where I told Luke’s story, and then told Ben’s story. There are over 700 kids in my school and all were packed in our gymnasium for that assembly; you could hear a pin drop. Students immediately took action. They made posters, called Coca-cola and Starbucks to donate refreshments, and called on parents to donate snacks. The School District got involved by putting Ben Towne Foundation’s link on the district website and I sent out mailers to every family in our school.

The event turned out great!  In just over one week we raised over $4K!  This was an amazing outcome considering every penny raised was from the efforts, love, and care of 12, 13, and 14 year olds. This event impacted everyone involved. Ben’s Aunt Kristen’s words reverberated in the hearts of hundreds of teens. The impact of the professional athletes that attended showed them that Ben Towne Foundation matters to larger-than-life figures, and therefore, should matter to young people. The teachers in the building were blown away by the efforts and impact of the school community, which happens to be in its first year as a new school. Most of all, Ben Towne now lives in the hearts and minds of our nations future and will continue to foster change in our communities.

*A HUGE belated thanks to Phil and Leah for their incredible efforts!! You have honored Luke and so many others in your commitment to cancer research. We are incredibly grateful for your energetic vision.