We continue to be inspired by our amazing volunteers out there on the front lines spearheading efforts to put colon cancer on the map and changing the face of this disease. That’s why we started the Volunteer of the Quarter feature—to honor and celebrate some of our most passionate, dedicated volunteers and share their stories so you can be inspired, too!
This quarter, we’re honoring two members of our Undy Engagement Committee who have devoted their time to our Dallas/Fort Worth and St. Louis Undy Run/Walks. Ricky Castillo and Luke Smith were both inspired to participate in their local races after family members were diagnosed with colon cancer and they’ve gone above and beyond to make the Undy a success. Read their inspiring stories and learn how you can get involved.
Tell us about yourself!
Ricky: I’m a firefighter/paramedic for the City of Midlothian, TX married to my beautiful wife Leigh Ann, dad to the cutest little boy Hudson Cole and have two four-legged kids, Roxy and Scout. We live in McKinney, TX where my wife is a high school teacher and ultra sound tech/sonographer. I enjoy spending time with friends and family, traveling and staying fit.
Five years ago, my sister Tammy was diagnosed with stage II colon cancer at age 38. She’s a mother of three and had no previous medical history or significant family history of this disease, but her life was about to change forever. With the support team of her husband, kids, mother and two brothers, my sister took this terrible disease head on and never looked backed. She had two feet of her colon removed and underwent twelve rounds of chemotherapy in six months.
Luke: I was born and raised in Knoxville, TN (Go Vols!) and moved to St. Louis in 2006. I’m married with a three year old daughter. I work as a commercial real estate lender for a national lender and in my spare time I enjoy running, volunteering, hunting and spending time with friends and family.
My father is a colon cancer survivor and I have an uncle who is currently fighting the disease for the third time.
How did you find out about the Undy Run/Walk and what inspired you to participate?
Ricky: I knew I had to be there for my sister no matter how bad it got. While researching colon cancer, I stumbled across the Colon Cancer Alliance and this event held across the nation called the Undy Run/Walk. I thought to myself, “How awesome is this? Who wouldn’t want to run in their undies for a great cause!” That’s all I needed to form the team Colon Crusaders and help boost my sister’s morale to get her through chemo.
Luke: I found out about the Undy Run/Walk online—I enjoy running and thought it would be a great way to give back. Not only have I been inspired by family members fighting this terrible disease, but having my first screening at 23 and finding a polyp scared the hell out of me. However, it also made me realize how easy it was to be screened and help avoid the awful disease.
Luke, you’re very involved in our St. Louis Undy Engagement Committee. What’s been your favorite moment as a committee member?
Honestly, just being able to be more involved and having the privilege of meeting the folks from the Colon Cancer Alliance that work so hard to make all of this happen. Without them, none of this would be possible.
Ricky, this year you brought new sponsor Top Golf to the DFW Undy! Can you tell us the story of how you made that happen?
This past Undy Run/Walk, I was asked to help organize the upcoming event and, without hesitation, I said yes. Being able to go out into my community and represent the Colon Cancer Alliance was a great honor because not only was I doing it for my sister, I was doing it for the many other survivors and patients. My wife and I love having date nights at Top Golf (we even had our wedding reception there) and I figured, “Why not ask them if they would be interested in sponsoring this one-of-a-kind event?” After a few phone calls and emails, Top Golf was on board!
What advice would you give to others interested in getting involved with the Undy Run/Walk?
Luke: What are you waiting for? Sign up already! What a great way to set a goal when so many of us are making New Year’s resolutions. Work toward a goal of running or walking the race, set a time goal if you can and kick it in the butt (pun intended). Most importantly, have fun with it. Give it a try—I guarantee you will be inspired by at least one person. If you're not, I'll pay for your entry next year.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Ricky: Now with four Undy Run/Walks under our belt, team Colon Crusaders continues to bring awareness to colon cancer and advocate that early screening saves lives. I even got screened at the age of 30! I plan to continue as a local representative of the Colon Cancer Alliance and reach out to the community and help bring awareness. Being a Colon Cancer Alliance volunteer brings me and my family so much happiness knowing we’re able to contribute and raise colon cancer awareness. Plus, my sister is now in remission and is cancer free!
Luke: We are all asked to donate time, money or both for so many charities, whether it's someone in front of your grocery store ringing a bell or a cute little girl selling Girl Scout cookies. Whatever and wherever you let your passion take you, be all in. If you're looking for something to get behind, give the Undy a chance.
Visit our website to learn ways you can get involved. Don’t forget, the Colon Cancer Alliance serves as a source of information about colon health. If you have additional questions about screening or are in need of support, please contact our free Helpline at (877) 422-2030. We’re here to help!