Fundraiser set for man battling leukemia

MILFORD – "I’ve got this."

That was almost Chris Brown’s first reaction to finding out he has acute myeloid leukemia.

Almost because, natu­rally, when anyone gets such a diagnosis, the ini­tial reaction is something akin to shock.

"When anyone tells you you’ve got cancer, you’re floored," Brown said from his room at One West, the ward at the Dartmouth- Hitchcock Norris Cotton Cancer Center where he has been for more than a month.

"It’s not what I was ex­pecting to hear. You go through a couple of min­utes of realizing it’s going to be a tough fight, but I knew my family would support me, my wife and two daughters. So there was no way I wasn’t going to fight this as hard as I could."

Naturally the diagno­sis, made in June, was bad news. But recently, there has been good news, too, and it’s pos­sible that soon he’ll be able to go home to Hollis for a few weeks and then, shortly after that, back to Dartmouth-Hitchcock for a bone marrow trans­plant.

Perhaps the best news is that doctors have al­ready found a match: his brother. Nevertheless, the search for a donor continues through na­tional and international blood marrow registries just in case there is a bet­ter match.

All of that, plus the support of his family and of his professional fam­ily at Hampshire Hills Sports Athletic Club in Milford, has helped him to maintain a positive at­titude that comes through clearly on the telephone and that reinforces his determination:

"I’ve got this."

That’s what he said when friends and co-workers first expressed their concern.

And that will be the slogan on Sunday, Aug. 9, when Hampshire Hills, as part of its annual mem­bers barbecue, will raise funds for Brown, who ex­pects to be out of work for anywhere from a year to two years. It’s something his co-workers and asso­ciates want to do because they admire his ability as a personal trainer, but also his incredibly posi­tive outlook.

"The event will be filled with fun activi­ties for adults and kids and is open to members and guests," said McKin­ley Curro, of Hampshire Hills, who is organizing the event. "This is an op­portunity to celebrate Chris and his incredible attitude through his jour­ney and to come together as a community to help raise money for his road ahead."

Brown hopes to be there. That is his short-term goal: to get out of the hospital, albeit temporar­ily, so he can be among his friends and support­ers on Aug. 9.

"My goal is to attend the fundraiser," he said, "but I’m not sure when I’ll be able to go home. My goal is to be out of here by the end of the month. I’m trying as hard as I can to be there."

No one doubts that.

"He has a beautiful family, and I am certain that is what motivates him," said Tom Sapienza, Hampshire Hills’ direc­tor of operations.

And Hampshire Hills is part of that, he said.

Brown "has a great support network," Sa­pienza said. "As awful as this is, it has brought a lot of people together with a common goal of doing whatever we can to help him get through this."

That sentiment was echoed by Laurie and Rick Holder, the club’s owners, who said in an email: "We are fortunate to have people like Chris supporting our team at Hampshire Hills, and now is the time for our team to support Chris in his battle."

The fundraiser will come one day after Am­herst Country Club holds a similar event for Brown – a golf scramble, with the majority of the proceeds going to Brown and his family, Curro said.

The Hampshire Hills barbecue will take cen­ter stage from noon-4 p.m. Aug 9.

"We want all of our members to participate" in the barbecue, Curro said, who said there will be no pressure to donate funds for Brown.

There will be donation locations around the bar­becue site, however, so members and their guests can put in some money, if they wish, she said.

There will even be a dunk tank.

"You can pay to dunk somebody," Curro said, "and those donations will go to Chris. If you don’t want to be dunked, you can match that donation to stay dry."

Wendy Mace and her band, 13 Steps, will per­form, and Dave Alcox will be the disc jockey.

"It will really be fun and low-pressure," Curro said.

Fun, yes, but serious, too, because the Hamp­shire Hills staff members are concerned for the welfare of their friend.

In their email, the Holders said, "We find it it immensely unfair when people who self­lessly give their time and caring to help oth­ers be well come down with life-threatening ill­nesses themselves. Chris Brown is one of those people."

That was echoed by Sa­pienza.

"Chris is a wonderful trainer," he said in an email." He is very low key, but professional and technically outstanding. He loves helping people, and now he is receiving the love right back."

Brown quickly ac­knowledges that.

"The amount of support I’ve gotten has been abso­lutely amazing," he said.

Brown said he’s pleased that Hampshire Hills is using "I’ve got this" as the fundraiser’s slogan.

"I think it’s pretty cool," he said. "Coming into this, I knew I had to have a positive attitude. Yeah, it’s pretty cool."

Those who don’t at­tend the Hampshire Hills event can still donate to Brown’s fund. He said there is a Go Fund Me site that a family friend set up, and it includes a blog that updates people on his progress. The ad­dress is gofundme.com/ wx7f74s.