The day he left for his freshman year of college, Tommy Boyer’s mom gave him a note.
In that note, she gave him some advice: “Go to bed on time. Go to church. Do your laundry.”
She also told him to push himself because he can be extremely successful if he puts his mind and body to it.
Two months later, on Oct 25, 2013, Brenda Boyer was killed in a car accident on her way home from work. She was 56 years old.
Losing his mother at such a young age was devastating for Boyer, but he’s now using that as motivation to make a difference.
“Our loss has greatly affected all of our lives especially for my brother,” Boyer’s older sister, Kelly Boyer said. “I think it’s important Tommy is keeping her memory alive — she is his guardian angel.”
This summer (2018), Boyer — a 2013 DuBois Central Catholic graduate — is taking his mom’s advice and honoring her memory by running from San Francisco to Boston to raise money for the Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults.
“I am physically running across the country, 4,000-plus miles,” Boyer said. “Along the way we stop at various cancer facilities and kind of help out wherever they need help, but it’s all to raise money for the Ulman cancer group who specifically fights against cancer in young adults.”
The Ulman Cancer Fund provides young adults ages 15 to 39 who have been affected by cancer with programs like cancer to 5K, which lends training to help patients return to physical activity; patient navigation, which provides support to cancer patients and their families; scholarships to help cancer patients get back in school; and UCF house, which provides free housing to young adult cancer patients, their families and their caregivers.
Boyer, currently a senior at Xavier University in Cincinnati, Ohio, will start in San Francisco June 17 and finish in Boston Aug. 5. Boyer himself will run about 10 to 16 miles a day, while his team of approximately 15 people will cover anywhere from 50 to 80 miles a day.
Their only breaks will come on Sundays when they volunteer at cancer centers.
“I just thought this would be a totally crazy trip,” Boyer said. “If someone came up to me and said, ‘Hey what did you do over the summer?’ I could say, ‘Oh I ran across the country.’”
When the team convenes each morning, every member will dedicate their run to a specific person.
Boyer already has some people in mind.
“Two of my grandparents died of cancer before I was born,” Boyer said. “I always think if they didn’t have cancer, I would have been able to meet them.”
Another source of inspiration for Boyer is someone closer to home, former DuBois resident Lessa Casteel, who passed away in July of 2016. Her daughter, Chloe, and Boyer remain friends.
“I just think of all of people back home that have been affected by cancer, like the Casteels,” Boyer said. “Mrs. Casteel was a huge sweetheart and was so nice every time I went over to her house, so I’ve been thinking of them and people like that.”
“It means a lot to my family and I that even though my mom has passed away, people are still doing great things to keep her memory alive,” Chloe Casteel said. “And that they are continuing to help others through the same difficulties that she went through.”
Boyer also wants to run for the people who beat their battles and continue to inspire others, like former Pitt standout and current Steelers running back James Conner.
“Seeing cases like James Conner — stud running back, Hodgkin Lymphoma and now he’s in the NFL,” Boyer said. “He beat the case, and I just want to help other people get through it.”
“I just feel like it would be touching,” Boyer added. “To run in honor of them because they do deserve it.”
In addition to raising awareness by running across the country, Boyer is hoping to raise $5,000 for the Ulman Cancer fund.
“The money stays entirely with the Ulman Cancer group, but where it goes within the organization changes,” Boyer explained. “But, it all goes to them.”
You can help Boyer reach his goal by donating online at 4kforcancer.org and looking up Thomas Boyer or by mailing a check to the Ulman Cancer Fund, 1215 E Fort Ave., Ste. 104 Baltimore MD, 21230, and write the check in support of Thomas Boyer.
Donors can also add a name for Boyer to dedicate one of his runs.
Because he has been so directly affected by the disease, Boyer is driven to help raise money for a cure.
“I know everybody at some point in their life has been affected by cancer, one way or another,” Boyer said. “The disease is everywhere and it touches everyone’s lives. Cancer is a nasty thing and being one step closer to the cure, just a dollar could help.”
But, it’s the memory of his mom that will give Boyer all the motivation he needs.
“She was a strong believer in helping others and doing the right thing,” Boyer said. “I think the run itself captures everything she’d want to be known for. I know I have to give 100 percent because that’s how she and my dad raised me. I have to make her, and everyone I’m running for proud, and that is motivation enough.”