When you have been diagnosed with, fought and defeated cancer, you look at life through a different lens.
So while Cody O’Connor, 25, who was diagnosed with Ewing Sarcoma 11 years ago, contemplates his upcoming trek across America, he breaks it down to walking three miles a day.
“Who can’t do that?” he asked.
Go ahead and raise your hand.
A graduate of Lakota West High School in 2014, O’Connor wants to prove the doctors wrong and show the importance of never giving up while he raises money for pediatric cancer patients through his nonprofit.
“Never walk normally again,” O’Connor said he was told by doctors after his right fibula was removed. ‘I know firsthand how a family’s dreams can be shattered. It is important to consistently show hope and light. “
This 3,000-mile Walk for Hope begins June 17 in New York City with stops planned in Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Columbus, Dayton, Cincinnati, Louisville, St. Louis, Kansas City, Topeka, Denver, Salt Lake City, Las Vegas and ends in Los Angeles.
“This will test me mentally and physically,” said O’Connor, who hopes to drive an average of 35 kilometers a day.
To prepare to run 3,000 miles, O’Connor trained with West Chester-born and retired mixed martial arts champion Rich Franklin, 46, whom he met through a mutual acquaintance last year.
A licensed real estate agent, O’Connor has put his career on hold to focus on training and raising money for his nonprofit.
He has set aside four months for his trip and will document through videos, a blog series, social media and diaries, meeting and talking to people along the way, he said. Proceeds from sponsorships and funds raised will go to Champions Do Overcome, a charity he founded to benefit and assist pediatric cancer patients and their families.
O’Connor wants to visit children’s hospitals on his walk, although he knows that COVID-19 restrictions can limit those interactions with young patients.
“I want this walk to shed light on the ongoing mental and emotional toll cancer can have on a person and their family,” said O’Connor, who will travel with a team of 2-3 people on the walk. “I want this trip to spread positivity, especially after a year that has been dark for many.”
He certainly understands the impact cancer can have on a person. He was a 14-year-old high school freshman when he was diagnosed. His parents went through a divorce and they put all their time and money into their son’s cancer.
His parents, who worked full-time, eventually filed for bankruptcy in order to provide for themselves and their seven children.
“It’s a family disease,” he said during a telephone interview. “It’s a shock to the patient, a shock to mom and dad, grandma, siblings, all the way down. It changes what the family does every day. “
So during his trip, O’Connor said he will think about the kids who walk in his shoes.
“I want them to see and believe my leg,” he said. “They need to know that with willpower, faith and drive dreams can become reality.”
Step-by-step. Or three miles a day.
HOW TO HELP
Sponsorship still required for the “Walk of Hope” includes: hotel rooms, transportation (rental car or RV), gas / fuel, audio equipment, camping gear, video equipment, camera equipment, bandages / wraps, mineral water, sunscreen, etc.
Anyone interested in sponsorship can contact Cody O’Connor at email@example.com or www.ChampionsDoOvercome.org.
The Journal-News is a media partner of WCPO 9 News.