When R.J. Trocke-Fowler had to write about a personal hero for a class assignment, he didn’t need to look far for inspiration. He wrote about his younger brother, Graham, who was diagnosed with a rare form of skin cancer in 2012. (We think he’s pretty inspiring, too, and wrote about him ourselves a while back.)
It’s easy to see why Graham made it to the top of his brother's list. During the course of his treatment at Mayo Clinic for spitzoid melanoma, the 11-year-old has had 14 surgeries. But it’s what he’s done between and since those surgeries that’s truly captured his brother’s admiration. After his diagnosis, Graham began making and selling rubber band bracelets (or “Grahamlets,” as he calls them) to raise money for childhood cancer research. So far, he’s raised an impressive $50,000 or so. That’s a lot of bracelets — in the neighborhood of 34,000, in fact. (You can support the cause and snap up a few Grahamlets of your own, if you’re so inclined.)
“When I have nothing-to-do time, I probably make like 100 a day,” Graham recently told WCCO-TV. (Maybe we should be more productive with our nothing-to-do time.) According to the TV station, R.J. went a little above and beyond, as well, sending his assignment /letter (and a few Grahamlets) to the White House. Earlier this month, Graham received a letter in response. And that letter included an invitation to stop by for a visit at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. “I almost cried, it was just so exciting,” Graham says of the note from President Barack Obama recognizing his efforts.
“By looking beyond your own challenges and working to support others fighting cancer, you have demonstrated the best of our country’s character,” writes the president. “I know your family is proud of you, and I am, too.”
Graham will have a chance to meet the president on Monday, April 6, when he and his family travel to Washington, D.C., to attend 2015 White House Easter Egg Roll. (Our invitation must have gotten lost in the mail, once again.) It’ll be his second trip to the city. Earlier this month, he joined other advocates in Washington to raise awareness about melanoma and make the case for more research funding.
You can help spread awareness by sharing your comments below and by sharing Graham’s story on social media.