Like countless others, Steve Wagner has loved and lost important people in his life to colorectal cancer (CRC). The fourth most common cancer in the United States and the second deadliest, Steve knows this disease isn’t going to leave quietly. Rather, it’s going to take the persistent and diligent efforts of a nation of allies to stop CRC in its tracks.
With a mother who survived CRC and a best friend, Brad Hale, who did not, Steve is committed to supporting the Colorectal Cancer Alliance at its annual Blue Hope Bash in Indianapolis.
While no event or mission can bring back a loved one, the purpose that drives us can bring us closer to the love we will always hold for them. At this year’s Blue Hope Bash Indianapolis, Steve aims to honor Brad’s life by preventing future loss and helping to realize a world without colorectal cancer.
Remembering Bradley Hale
Steve (left), Jeff, Brad, and Rich (right) at the 2019 Indy EggFest
In 2006, Steve, along with his wife and children, moved near the Hale family in the Indianapolis area. Shortly thereafter, they met Brad and Lori Hale and quickly became close friends.
“Our kids went to the same school together and we soon found out we had a lot in common,” Steve said. “We loved going to neighborhood parties together, gathering over a campfire, and just letting the kids run around. We also attended the same church, and our children got along just as well as we did.”
Brad also shared Steve’s passion for BBQ.
“Brad and I were part of a group of dads who would barbeque each year at a church picnic. We also competed in a local grilling competition, the Indy EggFest, each year. It was one of our favorite days of the year. Even after he became really sick, Brad joined us for one last EggFest right before he passed. It was one of his last really good days.”
Unfortunately, Brad wouldn’t be able to attend the 2020 Indy EggFest with Steve because he would no longer be alive.
Grappling With Grief
Steve (bottom left) and Brad (top right) with their spouses and friends on a couple’s trip in 2017
Steve opens up about what this loss has meant to him.
“I witnessed Brad’s battle with cancer – I was with him until the very end,” Steve said. “I had to come to terms with the fact that I’d never get to spend time with my good friend again. Even still, my thoughts quickly turned to Lori and her two kids. I thought about all of the milestones they would face without Brad, and it was even harder to think about him not being here.”
While Steve may have lost Brad, he and his wife made it a point to not lose Lori and her family. They all still remain very much a part of one another’s lives.
“Lori has dealt with so much loss,” Steve said. “She also lost her brother to CRC at a young age. My wife and I have made it a priority to support Lori as much as we can. We’ve had the privilege of her moving into the house behind us, and we’re really proud of everything she’s done to raise awareness about this deadly disease and fight back. Supporting the Blue Hope Bash is a natural way to support her and to honor my dear friend Brad.”
Spreading Awareness to Save Lives
Steve (left), Terry, Jeff, and Brad (right) boating in 2016
Steve knows that supporting the Blue Hope Bash Indianapolis is just one piece to the puzzle. In order to end colorectal cancer, more people need to know about this deadly disease.
“Now, I bring it up whenever I can,” Steve said. “Whether it’s with guys at the golf course or family at the dinner table, I don’t hesitate to inquire about whether or not people are staying on top of their physicals and screenings. Early detection is key, and people need to know this is not just a disease for the elderly.”
When Steve thinks about the differences between his mother’s CRC and Brad’s, he further highlights the importance of early detection as a life saving initiative.
“My mom had a lot of health issues and was much older than Brad when she was diagnosed with CRC,” Steve said. “Originally, we thought it would be a death sentence for her but, because of early detection, she was able to pull through. Unfortunately, the same couldn’t be said for Brad. Oftentimes, younger people diagnosed with CRC have more advanced stages because they didn’t have early detection through screening. Everyone – regardless of their age – needs to talk to their doctor about CRC, find out their risk factors, and normalize talking about symptoms.”
Supporting Blue Hope Bash Indianapolis
Steve playing harmonica on stage at the 2022 Blue Hope Bash Indianapolis
Because Steve believes so passionately in the mission to end colorectal cancer, his law firm is sponsoring this year’s Blue Hope Bash Indianapolis. Steve would like others to know why this event matters so much to him.
“Not only is CRC one of the leading killers, but it soon may be the number one cancer killer,” Steve said. “Attending Blue Hope Bash Indianapolis is for a great cause. Lori (Chair of the Indianapolis Blue Hope Bash), her committee team, and the entire central Indy community is such a close knit group. Honestly, it’s a great time for everyone.”
Even though colorectal cancer is a serious thing, working to end it doesn’t have to be devoid of fun. Steve speaks about how much he looks forward to attending this event.
“The evening itself is a blast,” Steve said. “Everyone gets dressed up to spend a night on the town. There’s always a great band with fantastic auction items at an amazing venue. At the last Bash, someone bet I couldn’t walk my hands across the dancefloor, but I did — after a few attempts. It’s a fun group and an unbelievable night for one of the most important causes.”
Steve and his law firm, Wagner Reese, look forward to helping make a large impact at this year’s Blue Hope Bash Indianapolis. He knows that Brad would be cheering him on, hands across the dancefloor and all. In honor of people impacted by colorectal cancer, Steve urges others to get involved and know the facts.
To purchase tickets to the Blue Hope Bash Indianapolis, happening on November 4, 2023, visit the Alliance’s website.
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