Diagnosed with an aggressive form of brain cancer at age 20, Tom Marciniec battled the disease for four years. He graduated from from Augustana College even as he fought the cancer that would claim his life.
Through his fight, he was comforted by the companionship of his dogs: Web, Ivy and puppy Gus.
Now, in his memory, mom Pat is training Gus to become a therapy dog. Through the Thomas Marciniec Memorial Foundation, his family has also established Tom’s Dogs, an organization dedicated to providing therapy dogs for brain surgery patients.
On Saturday, people and pets off all kinds are invited to take part in Tom’s Walk-a-Thon. The event will raise money for the Canine Therapy Corps, providing trained therapy dogs for patients at the Northwestern Brain Tumor Institute (NBTI) of Chicago.
The pet and people walk kicks off at 9 a.m. Saturday at the Settlers’ Park pavilion, 24000 W. Lockport St.
Participants are raising money by finding sponsors to pledge them for the June 23 event.
But according to organizer Lydia Nowak, it’s not too late for pet owners to get involved. To participate, simply download a form from the event website and start collecting pledges.
And the event isn’t limited to dogs, either.
“It’s a pet walk-a-thon, so if someone wants to bring their cat in a cat carrier [or] their hamster,” they can, Nowak said.
Participants also have a chance to win prizes for best-dressed pet, best pet/owner lookalikes, most unusual pet and best fundraiser, Nowak said. The first 50 participants will receive a goody bag.
After the walk-a-thon, Canine Therapy Corps will host a therapy dog demonstration at 10:30 a.m. Prizes will be awarded at 10:45 a.m.
‘Life is as short as you make it’
Marciniec was diagnosed with glioblastoma, the most common and aggressive form of brain tumor, as a college sophomore.
He went on to graduate from Augustana with a degree in English and hoped to become a journalist and author.
The following essay excerpt, written by Marciniec when he was just 13, is posted on his foundation’s website:
Life is never short. Wait… let me rephrase that. Life is as short as you make it. If the only way that you can live it is by looking for something better, then I can tell you right now that it’s going to be short. If you are happy with what you have, then your life will extend beyond your expectations, and I don’t mean in length. I mean quality.
In his honor, his former Indian Trail Middle School teacher Shannon Kozak presented the first Tom Marciniec Award to an outstanding language arts student this spring.
After a four-year battle, Marciniec died in March 2011 at age 24.
According the Thomas Marciniec Memorial Foundation website, the Marciniec family’s hope is to sponor therapy animals through the Canine Therapy Corps. Each dog, wearing a “Tom’s Dog” patch, will provide companionship and comfort to a patient at NBTI, where Marciniec received his treatment.
For more information on the foundation, visit www.thomasm.org.
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