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It was three years ago that Matt Clark learned his friend, Mark Thurbush, had been diagnosed with lymphoma, a blood cancer.  At the time, they were students together in the Carlson School of Management’s Executive MBA program. 

"We’re all sitting there waiting for class to start, complaining about homework and kids and how to find balance, and Mark walks in and says, 'I have cancer,'" recalls Clark, a banker with U.S. Bank business banking in the Twin Cities.

Clark was moved to tears that day. In the years that followed, he not only stood by his friend during his health battle but also helped him raise $30,000 to support research and awareness of leukemia and lymphoma. Clark’s efforts led him to a coveted spot in The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s 2013 Man/Woman of the Year competition.

Candidates in the competition are using their leadership skills to conduct individual fundraising campaigns, with each dollar raised for research counting as one vote. The campaigns end on May 17, when the top vote-getters will be named Man & Woman of the Year. 

Chicago natives transplanted to the Twin Cities, Clark and Thurbush hit it off in the MBA program. By spring, the two had become close friends, and Clark was determined not to let Thurbush fight cancer alone. 

"Matt is one of those guys who gets you to believe and ask more in yourself," said Thurbush, a veteran of the United States Air Force.  
A few months after the diagnosis, Clark started accompanying Thurbush to chemo treatments. The two spent hours chatting and playing Monopoly. "We talked a lot of baseball, namely a lot of Cubs baseball," Clark said.

And when Thurbush tired during the treatments, Clark waited while his friend slept. Eventually came good news:  Thurbush was in remission. He asked Clark to help him pay his good fortune forward.

"My goal started out as $5,000 dollars, but after a 30-minute lunch with Matt, he convinced me that our goal should be $50,000!  That is typical of Matt; always pushing himself to give 10 times the effort as others," said Thurbush.

Over the course of three years, they raised $30,000 through their own networks of family and friends. They hope to hit the $50,000 mark by February 22, 2015 -- the 5-year anniversary of Thurbush’s diagnosis.

"God put this guy in my life," Clark said of his friend. "There is no other reason why I’d get up at 3:45 a.m. for my workouts, do a good job for U.S. Bank and still have time to pay it forward and help this guy out."
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