Deena C. Bouknight, Contributing Writer
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.”
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.”
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 fundraising.stjude.org/gogoldfordaniel. SCC and MEC hope to raise $5,000.