When Charlie Henderson was diagnosed with a brain tumor in 2009, everything about his life changed.
As he recovered from his treatment, Charlie focused his energy on running. He became a regular competitor and medalist in area 5Ks, fueling the idea to turn his hobby into a mission, and he did.
Charlie founded the Tumor Trooper Run in Rome to raise money for the Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation. Cancer is an expensive disease. The foundation helps families pay for traveling expenses and other needs related to their children’s treatment. This often means multiple trips to Atlanta for surgery, follow-up care, chemotherapy or radiation. The children also receive primary care there for the duration of their cancer treatment. If a child exhibits any sign that his or her condition is changing, even something as seemingly benign as a runny nose, it means another trip to Atlanta and more financial and relational strain on an already fragile family.
Charlie was passionate about the cause, and he was fearless in asking for sponsors, donors and runners. Even when his tumor returned, Charlie continued to stage the race.
Dr. Sylvia Washington and her pediatrics practice staff first ran the Tumor Trooper race three years ago. They ran to support a patient we’ll call Taylor, who was diagnosed with a brain tumor that had spread to his spine. The Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation had helped Taylor’s family, and running the Tumor Trooper was a tangible way they could help.
Sadly, Charlie died in 2016, and without him, it looked as if the Tumor Trooper Run would no longer exist. Charlie’s parents attempted to keep the event going, but they quickly learned just how much work their son had been doing to make the run a reality. They needed help.
That’s when Dr. Washington and her team stepped up again. This year, they are not running in the race. They are running the race, organizing, fundraising, signing up runners and plotting the course. Dr. Washington is the chairman of the Tumor Trooper Run, and she and her staff are worker bees behind the committee that is keeping Charlie’s race alive.
The 2018 Tumor Trooper Run is scheduled for October 6, and Dr. Washington and her staff will be there early. They are doing it for Taylor, who remains their patient, and for a growing community of pediatric brain tumor patients they have encountered along the way.