Friday, February 10, 2017

Prayers for Elijah

Smiles and silliness because that's
how Elijah rolls 
As many of you know, I have been an adult volunteer for the Greater Lake County Young Marines for many years. As a matter of fact, this past fall marked my 11th year with the program. Over the years, many kids and their families have come and gone and most of the time, when they leave the program, they are never to be seen or heard from again. There are a few, however, with whom you develop personal relationships/friendships and those friendships remain long after their time with the program ends. Because I would feel horrible if I left anyone out, I won't mention names. There is one such young man I would like to mention, however, and that is a former Young Marine Elijah Smart. He was only in the Young Marines for a few years but he was one of the nicest, most polite, hard working, and helpful kids in our program. He loved being a Young Marine and was always so eager to learn. He was one of the first kids to always ask to help out if something needed done, always willing to help his fellow Young Marines, just an all around good kid with a heart of gold and one of those kids who made volunteering thousands of hours every year worth it.

I mention Elijah because not too long ago, I learned he was recently diagnosed with AML, Acute Myeloid Leukemia, a very aggressive form of the disease and is spending the next five or so months (as well as his 18th birthday in a couple weeks) hospitalized undergoing equally aggressive treatment until the cancer is gone. I had the pleasure of visiting with Elijah and his mom on Sunday, February 6, and with everything that is going on and everything he is facing, especially with a medical set backs he has encountered in the last couple weeks due to this aggressive treatment, his spirit and faith haven't wavered and he is still the kind, funny, and gentle soul always thinking about others instead of himself, just as he was when he was in Young Marines program. Truly an inspiration! The apple doesn't fall far from the tree because his mom is a pretty special lady as well. I have been so inspired by Elijah's strength and courage through all of this that I have decided to run The Gathering Place's Race for the Place 5K in June, my goal race and a race I hold very near and dear to my heart for many reasons, in his honor.

Elijah could really use all the prayers, positive vibes, and whatever else you can send his way right now and in the months ahead. His mom could, too. I can't imagine what it's like being an almost 18 year old young man facing a life-threatening disease, knowing you will have to spend your senior year within the sterile walls of a hospital, wondering why God chose this path for you, and wondering what the future holds for you or being a mother watching your only son fight a battle no son should ever have to. Really makes you put things into perspective. It's hard to comprehend why these things happen but I know from my own experience with cancer, the love, support, prayers, positive thoughts, etc. from friends, family, and even from complete strangers makes all the difference in the world. I know it will make all the difference with Elijah and his mom, too.

Just keep swimming, buddy! We're your floaties and with you every step (or stroke LOL) of the way!