Carrying out Eli’s wishes
During September, which is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, the streetlights in Oxford will be adorned with gold bows.
Mayor Geoff Henry issued a proclamation Monday night recognizing the severity of childhood cancer and the importance of observing a month dedicated to the fight against a dreaded disease that claims 91,250 young lives each year.
But it’s safe to assume that most people in Oxford and the surrounding communities don’t need the gold bows or a proclamation by the mayor to remind them about the insidious nature of childhood cancer.
Eli Seth Matthews died on Jan. 20, 2011, ending his three-year battle with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia. But Eli's brave stand against cancer has inspired so many others in the community to continue to work on his behalf.
Eli's life left a lasting impression on many people who knew him. Even though he was sick himself, he worked to raise money to help other children who were battling leukemia.
Now, in Eli's memory, dozens of car washes have been staged as youngsters, teens, and adults come together to do hard but cleansing work so that another $5, $8, or $10 can be added to what has been collected. School groups have organized walks, basketball games, and penny wars, and the money raised by these events has been donated in Eli's memory to the fight against cancer. Women and girls have selflessly offered to have their own hair cut off so that it can be donated, through the well-known non-profit organization Locks of Love, to cancer patients who need it.
A lot of money has been raised in Eli's memory. A lot of love has been spread in Eli's memory.
If the measure of a life is really how much a person positively impacts others, then Eli's life, while short, was also extraordinary.
Eli's father, Paul Matthews, likes to call those who continue to work on his son's behalf Eli's Warriors. They have helped the Eli Seth Matthews Leukemia Foundation raise tens of thousands of dollars for the fight against childhood caner.
The statistics about childhood cancer are startling. Every year, there are an estimated 263,000 new cases of cancer affecting children under the age of 20 worldwide. That equates to 720 children diagnosed with cancer each and every day.
But when you consider what one young life in Oxford has inspired, there is hope that one day there will be a cure and the Eli Seth Matthews of the world will get to grow up. Until then, the work of Eli's Warriors goes on.