Fundraiser Aug. 9 for Hollis man battling leukemia

MILFORD – “I’ve got this.”

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

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."

The diagnosis, made in June, was obviously 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 12-4 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.