A former IPS teacher went out of his way to help one of his students in her battle with Leukemia. Now, she is trying to help him do the same for blood cancer patients across the country.
Ron Sandlin is among several Central Indiana nominees for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society's Man and Woman of the Year, a fundraising competition where each nominee earns votes based on each dollar donated in their name.
Four years ago, Ericka had just started fourth grade at IPS school 93. Sandlin was just a few weeks into his first year as a teacher, when Ericka raised a concern during one of his lessons.
"One day she raised her hand and complained of her arm hurting and (I said) 'it will be okay Ericka,'” Sandlin said. “But it wouldn't stop and tears started coming down her face."
"I remember my mommy coming in crying, and I didn't know why. She didn't tell me until we got to Riley Hospital that I had cancer," Ericka said. "I was scared of dying.”
Doctors at Riley Hospital for Children at IU Health diagnosed Ericka with Leukemia.
"When I got that call it made me pause and realize what I was doing was more than what was happening in my classroom,” Sandlin said. “In that I had an obligation, as a part of this person's life, to do something."
Sandlin started by tutoring Ericka at home, but he wanted to do more. He created a fundraising website for Ericka’s family and created a trust in her name, so that he could collect the money.
"I was very grateful for that,” Martin said. “Nobody else did it, not even my own father did that."
In the past four years, Ericka survived her initial bout with Leukemia and also fought through a relapse, which spread to her brain. During that time, Ron raised more than $4,000 for the family.
"He raised the money to get my rent and stuff paid because I wasn't able to work,” said Brandy Parker, Ericka’s mother. “Nothing mattered to me at that time but being there with her."
Sandlin now works for the Department of Education, but the impact he made on Ericka while he was at School 93 left such an impression that he was nominated for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society's Man of the Year.
"I almost felt a little overwhelmed," Sandlin said.
Overwhelmed because Sandlin is one of just a few people nominated for the title of Man or Woman of the Year. His goal is to raise the most money for an organization that funds both blood cancer research and patient outreach.
"The things that I wanted to do for Ericka, the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society are doing for patients all across this state and as well as all across the country," Sandlin said.
Ericka has now been in remission for seven months, and she has a couple things to say about her choice for man of the year.
"That he's a great person,” Ericka said. “That he's loving and caring."
Sandlin has organized an NFL draft party for charity on Thursday night and a charity motorcycle ride this weekend in hopes of raising money for his campaign. To find out more or to donate directly, go to his Man of the Year campaign website. More information about all of the candidates is available online.
Teacher who raised money for student with leukemia up for award
Ron Sandlin is among several Central Indiana nominees for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society's Man and Woman of the Year.