Don Cook Riding in the 2018 CT Challenge

It’s hard to imagine I am preparing for my fifth CT Challenge (MISSION) Bike Ride this coming summer, July 27 and 28, 2018.

The enormous generosity and thoughtfulness of so many has been a humbling eye-opener for me. The donations in my son, Christopher’s memory have been powerful, symbolic expressions of the resolve and commitment so many have made to battle cancer. The messages enclosed with the donations touched me even more. Not until I read many of those messages did I realize fully how cancer has impacted the lives of so many. The reality is cancer affects nearly everyone. The research shows that 1 in 2 men, and 1 in 3 women will get cancer I their lifetimes. Yikes!

I suppose it’s not until cancer hits home, and very personally, do people grasp how terrifying and heinous living with it can be. The outpouring of support I received from friends, as well others with whom I had only a passing acquaintance, has been overwhelming. As ironic as it seems cancer bonded me to people I had never met prior to meeting them during Christopher’s illness. The staff at the MISSION especially is in this category. Jeff Keith, his administrative team and colleagues stood by me through the grief that accompanied Christopher’s death. I found that the simple act of talking to them has helped me take an important step forward. As difficult as losing Christopher has been, and it doesn’t get any easier, being surrounded by wonderful friends has softened some of the agonizing pain that comes from losing one’s child. It compares to no other human experience.

For people new to the bike ride, especially those who have yet to visit this site, TEAM SHU has been dedicating its fundraising to a scholarship in Christopher’s memory. In partnership with the MISSION Sacred Heart is awarding scholarships to student cancer survivors. Beginning with the spring semester of 2016 we celebrated the awarding of scholarships to 4 wonderful young women who continue to be, or were full time Sacred Heart students, Allison Clark, Jaime Fregeau, Haleigh Rapp and Jean Cariello. This past spring we awarded scholarships to Cristina Zangagli and Gillian Guerin. This year we are committed to Faith Leahy, Trent Thompson and Amelia Dspino. We will be renewing their scholarships to graduation.

We couldn’t be more pleased with the selection of these 9 courageous undergraduates. Each has a deeply inspiring story of agonizing pain and courage in the midst of life’s most difficult circumstances. Their stories offer lessons of strength for our own life’s journey, no matter how difficult our personal trials might be. They are a wonderful credit to their parents’ upbringing.

Christopher visited the Center frequently as he was able during the early stages of his disease. The Center’s staff had a gift for helping people feel empowered to regain a healthier and happier life. As broken-hearted as we are that Christopher is no longer with us, I wanted to do something to keep his spirit alive by supporting the Center. With the continuing good will of Bobby Valentine, who each year serves as the Honorary Chair of the Bike Ride, along with loyal friends with whom Christopher and I had contact with over the years we continue to support TEAM SHU in the fundraising effort in Christopher’s memory.

I can think of no better way to celebrate my son’s life.


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