Bobby Aiken, CEO of Lendmark Financial, is passionate about finding cures for childhood cancers. Over the last six years, he has known three different young men who were diagnosed with varying types of cancer. All three survived, but their individual journeys caused Bobby to step back and rethink his view of challenges.
It was Chip Madren who had the most profound effect on Bobby. Chip’s father, Ken, and Bobby have had a friendship that’s spanned their lifetimes. The Friday before Chip was diagnosed with Stage IV Metastatic Anaplastic Medulloblastoma and given a very slim chance for survival, the three were fishing together. A normal weekend. But the news that broke on Monday was staggering. Bobby recalls, “In less than five days, we fished, laughed, ribbed one another, encountered a diagnosis of cancer, endured the first of many surgeries, and felt hearts breaking all around us. I’ll never forget the tears that filled the eyes of my family when I shared the news. Life kind of seemed to stop in its tracks.”
As difficult as the early days were, it is the path since then that served as an inspiration to Bobby. “Seeing people pull together to make a difference, watching Chip literally fight for his life and win, having Ken share stories of Lea’s (Chip’s mom) persistence and determination to keep everything aligned, the fight inside a mother for her child is incredible, it goes on and on. Chip’s fight has made me a better person and has positively impacted many, many lives.”
Bobby is a stadium runner, and has spent the last few years thinking about Chip and kids like him who are facing the challenges of cancer while running. He had an idea. What if he took his love of stadium running and turned it into a fundraiser, engaging his company’s employees, partners and vendors in the fight against childhood cancer. The Climb to a Millon was born.
On Saturday, August 13, 2016 at Oconee County High School Stadium, Bobby’s vision became a reality as Lendmark Financial Services held its inaugural Climb to a Million. His $150,000 goal was easily surpassed as employees and partners ran and walked 1 million steps. When all was said and done, Lendmark raised more than $225,000 for CURE.
Bobby says, “The Madren family is one of thousands that have to take on this fight every day. It’s hard on every one of them and it’s a fight for every child. It takes every characteristic of strength, persistence, and faith; requiring reliance on one another and on those that surround them. They did it, they continue to do it, and they set the example for others to follow.”