Our first honoree, Tim Howard, the uncle of an active third year member Shannon Stalnaker, was having trouble breathing and was coughing excessively.He went to the hospital back in February of 2013 where X-rays were taken and he was informed of a suspicious spot on one of his lungs. Howard was soon diagnosed with stage four squamous cell carcinoma of undifferentiated cell type. If that wasn’t shocking enough, he also learned that it had metastasized to his brain. He was only fifty one. The doctors told him he was given fifteen to twenty two months to live with treatment, news no one is prepared to hear. He was living in Arkansa when he was diagnosed but decided to move to California in August that same year, closer to family. The cancer he was diagnosed with is usually found in individuals that smoke or have smoked during their life. Only one percent of non-smokers statistically get this type of cancer, and sadly, he was one of those non-smokers. In February, Howard and his family heard those words no one ever hopes to hear, “You have stage four lung cancer.” It changed his life forever. However, it is with joy we celebrate with Howard as a survivor who has battled cancer for nearly three years! At the event, our members had the pleasure of meeting this delightful man. He is a true inspiration, who lives with a passion for life and has the strongest will to fight and survive. He was thankful for our generosity, and carried a beautiful smile while making his supportive laps around the track in his wheelchair. It was very touching to see him, and to show him we too are fighting with and for him.
Our second honoree, Eulalio Martinez, the Great Grandfather of a fourth year member and chapter officer Jose L. Medina III was another great source of inspiration for our relay team. Mr. Martinez of Planada, California was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer in August 2015, and sadly lost his battle on September 18th, only five days after the Relay For Life event. Jose and his family truly appreciated our chapter honoring his great grandfather, and were thankful not only for the event and what it does to bring attention to the disease that affects so many, but for the outpouring of support so deserved by those fighting to know they will never fight alone. The entire Medina family came to the event and allowed our chapter to share this experience with them. Mr. Martinez was a very hard working and caring individual. No matter who you were, he would treat you like one of his own, his family said, “We may have lost a great man, but we know that Heaven received a great Angel.” He will be greatly missed by many.
Every year, for the past ten years our chapter has been involved with the American Cancer Society Relay for Life event, and this year our goal was to raise $6,000, exceeding the $5,500 dollars our chapter raised in the previous year. Working extremely hard to complete this task, we encouraged each of our members to raise a minimum of $100, but we were so excited and humbled to see that they far exceeded those expectations. Not only did we encourage our members to get involved, we also encouraged our staff members as well, all which proved to be an easy task. The entire Buhach Colony High School campus came together to rally support, not only to see that our chapter met its goal, but in support of the bigger picture- we are all a family affected by cancer and all have a common goal for a cure. To get our staff involved, we started with our principal, Mr. Hobbs, who graciously agreed to wear the special Cancer Kickin Boots created by the Ag Leadership class. Those boots were a symbol of his support and dedication to the fight! After wearing them for half of the day, he was asked to provide a donation and choose another staff member to wear the boots next to help him give cancer the boot. The process continued for about two weeks on our campus, and as nearly every teacher wore the boots to show their dedication as well, made donations to our relay fund. We hoped to see those boots stomp all over campus, which they did. The activity turned out to be a huge success as other students began to ask questions and when informed, inquired about how they too could get involved. From that, our relay team began to grow unexpectedly, and we could not have been more excited! With the help of our staff, students, FFA members and community, we were able to not only meet our earning goal, but exceeded it, donating over $6,500!
Not only did we surpass our goal, our relay team also took part in several activities throughout the duration of the Relay for Life event, receiving top honors in nearly each competition, as well as recognition for being the only team to have a representative on the track each of the 24 total hours. All participation in total earned us an overall 2nd place in spirit points. Beyond that, we also came home with the outstanding honor to be the only youth organization to achieve a Gold Standard raising the most money. Beyond the awards and recognitions, the true prize was in the service we were able to provide and the support offered to so many battling cancer, especially Mr. Howard and the late Mr. Martinez, that was what we are truly the most proud of.
To celebrate the memory of those who are no longer with us, the survivors, and those who are continuing to fight, we all gathered together and walked the track in their honor. It was an emotional experience to see how many families are affected by this disease. As a community, coming together as one, we believe we are taking steps in the right direction, to finding a cure for our loved ones. Buhach Colony FFA will continue participating in this powerful event that we all know will make a positive difference in the lives of others. We want to say a huge thank you to all of our supporters.