MEC senior spearheads Childhood Cancer Awareness event

Macon Early College senior, Daniel Tomberlin (center), spearheaded a Child Cancer Awareness event at MEC which was attended by (from left) his mother, Cindy, father, Jody, Jill Van Order, who works as a college liaison for Southwestern Community College, and sister, Heather. For the full story, see page 6. Photo by Deena C. Bouknight Photo by Deena C. Bouknight

Deena C. Bouknight, Contributing Writer 

Macon County Early College staff and students surprised Daniel Tomberlin by wearing special shirts to support a September 25th event he spearheaded: Childhood Cancer Awareness.

Seventeen-year-old Daniel Tomberlin is used to getting attention. However, the Macon Early College senior is not used to the kind of attention he received during a lunchtime event Sept. 25th on the campus. During the fundraiser event, which he spearheaded due to September being Childhood Cancer Awareness, students and faculty at Macon Early College surprised him with a show of solidarity by wearing matching bright yellow t-shirts bearing the message: “Love. Hope. Cure.”

A classmate wheels Daniel Tomberlin into Macon Early College at the start of a fundraising lunch in his honor on Sept. 25 in Franklin.

Tomberlin has bravely battled neuroblastoma – a rare form of childhood cancer – multiple times. In fact,  the attention he has received has been from being a patient at St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital in Memphis, Tenn., for 12 years. He recently began his fifth such battle and asked his principal, Mark Sutton, if Southwestern Community College and  Macon Early College could recognize, and build awareness of, childhood cancer. 

“I just think most people and students don’t realize how many young people are struggling with cancer and how big of a struggle it really is,” said Tomberlin. 

Echoes his father, Jody, “You just don’t realize how many struggle until you’re in the cancer world. It’s a humbling experience.” 

From left, Danell Moses, Annette Kesgen, Erica Muse and Cheryl Renfro were among the dozen Southwestern Community College employees who work on the Jackson Campus and purchased gold shirts in September in honor of Daniel Tomberlin.

SCC hosted the fundraiser lunch (organized by the Student Council) from noon until 1:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 25. Coca-Cola Bottling Co. Consolidated in Bryson City donated drinks for the event, while Brasstown Beef offered meat for burgers. 

Tomberlin’s mother, Cindy, said the event resulting from her son’s initiative, moved her. “I had to fight back tears,” she said. “Thank you is not enough. I’ve not seen such support.” 

Helping to organize the event was Jill Van Order, college liaison. 

“Daniel is an amazing young man, and getting to know him these past months has been a pleasure,” she said. “He’s just always smiling, full of joy. The other students notice.”

Van Order, along with a few students, designed the shirts, which were sponsored by Macon Pride Carpentry, Tomberlin Tax and Accounting Inc., Southwestern Community College, and WNC SportsZone. 

Tomberlin plans to graduate in December and attend Southwestern Community College next year. 

All proceeds from the luncheon, as well as sales of t-shirts, candy, and bracelets, will be donated to St. Jude’s as requested by Tomberlin. Ongoing donations can be made to SCC and MEC hope to raise $5,000.