It usually takes years to develop a passion in life.
Ethan Sellars is only 10 years old, but he’s already found it.
It’s Ethan’s dream to eradicate cancer for good because of what it took away from him three years ago. Ethan’s grandfather and best friend, Greg Estep, died from the disease.
Ten months after Greg’s death, on Ethan’s seventh birthday, he decided he didn’t want gifts. Instead, he said, give the money you’d have used for a gift for cancer research. They took $500 to the American Cancer Society where they also learned about the Relay for Life, an event that celebrates the lives of those who have cancer and the families of those who have lost loved ones to the disease.
Giving up your birthday money? That’s a bold move for a 7-year-old, but Ethan Sellars is no ordinary boy.
“He literally thinks he will be the one to raise enough money to find a cure for cancer,” said Greg’s widow, Pam Estep. “As my son, Chris, said, ‘There’s been a fire lit in Ethan.’’’
That passion burns inside of him and it’s keeping his grandfather’s spirit alive and well.
On Saturday, Team Bama will be one of the groups represented at the Boyd County Relay for Life at the Fairview football field. The 12-hour event starts at high noon and activities stretch throughout the day and into the night.
Team Bama (Greg was a huge Alabama football fan and thus so is Ethan) will be the tent with three inflatables, a gift certificate basket worth $1,000 and plenty of good food.
They come into the afternoon already having raised $6,500 after some amazing donations made their way to them.
Pam Estep says she stays in a perpetual state of being overwhelmed by the generosity of friends, family and sometimes even strangers.
Three years ago they were at the first Relay for Life event and raised about $2,500, including a $1,200 donation from the Tomcats For Tomcats organization founded after Greg’s death. The TFT, a group mostly made up of Ashland graduates, has been a helping hand to many in need. Bob Fosson, TFT president, told Pam as long as Ethan was involved with the Relay for Life, the organization would be behind him financially and in every other way.
TFT members David Lynch and Jolinda Conley came to Pam’s house earlier this week with a check for $2,118 made out to Team Bama for the Relay for Life. That easily pushed Team Bama past its goal of $5,000 and there’s still a full day Saturday to raise more money.
“I told them when they came over, there aren’t even words to express,” Pam said.
Team Bama started in the fall with a Spring Fling that raised $1,200, and that’s where Pam was put in touch with the Disciple Motorcyle Ministry through Heather May. That group bought $800 worth of shirts and donated $1,200 more to the cause on an exciting day.
The coffers were filling up quickly.
Part of the reason for community generosity is because Greg was a community person. He loved Ashland and her people.
Now they’re loving him back the only way they know how.
When Pam was looking for gift certificates, she thought about Moe’s, where Greg often frequented for lunch. They called him “Norm” when he came in after the famous “Cheers” character.
“When I called Randy at Moe’s I told him I was ‘Norm’s’ wife,” Pam said. “He said, ‘Oh, Norm’s wife! I’d be honored.’ He told me to come down and he gave me a $100 gift certificate.”
And on and on it goes, she said.
Ethan is getting older and better understands the sacrifice some are making in donating to the cause, his grandmother said.
“It has been such a great outpouring,” she said. “We feel so blessed.”
Chris Estep sent a letter to the TFT thanking members for the support and telling them Ethan’s tenacity comes naturally since he’s “got a little ‘Mad Dog’ blood in him.”
“Mad Dog” was Greg’s nickname in high school when he was quarterback of the Tomcats.
“Greg would have been so overwhelmed with the motorcycle ride and the gift from the Tomcats For Tomcats,” his wife said. “He had some great friends who are such good people.
“I know he’d be proud of Ethan, too.”
We all should be a little proud of him. His passion may well be a blessing to many before he’s finished.
MARK MAYNARD can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (606) 326-2648.
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