It's been a year since Behren Britton was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia, but his father, New Albany High School teacher and assistant varsity football coach Bobby Britton, said his middle child likely would not remember anything about his treatment, which will end just a week before he starts kindergarten.
Behren, 3, is in remission from leukemia. He was diagnosed May 4, 2018, after he developed a swollen lymph node in his neck, Bobby Britton said.
Although he never took his job at the New Albany-Plain Local School District for granted, he said, he was especially grateful for the support he has received from the school community during his son's battle with cancer.
Thanks to a nomination from student Owen Troutman, Behren was named the honored hero for the central Ohio chapter of the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society's 2019 fundraising efforts.
The goal, Bobby Britton said, was to use a family and a real story to raise awareness about cancer.
"When it hits you directly," it becomes personal, he said.
Troutman knew Bobby Britton from his humanities class his freshman year. When he learned about Behren's leukemia diagnosis, the 16-year-old sophomore said he felt terrible for Behren's family.
"During my eighth-grade year, my dad was diagnosed with lymphoma, so I know how difficult something like that can be for a family," Troutman said.
Troutman said he connected Behren's family with LLS because it could be a good experience.
Troutman has some experience with the LLS.
He was nominated for its Students of the Year program by LLS board member Tracy Turner, who Troutman said is a friend of his family.
"She nominated me because she knew about my dad's fight with cancer and thought that I would make a great candidate with a passion to fundraise and help people," Troutman said.
The Students of the Year program is a philanthropic leadership-development program in which students learn skills they can use to fundraise for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, said Katie Peck, LLS Students of the Year campaign specialist.
The program provides high schoolers the opportunity to lead their own fundraising team for the society, she said..
To become a candidate, students may complete an online application, or they may be nominated to participate, Peck said. Parents, teachers, coaches and neighbors have nominated students, she said.
If confirmed, the student leaders may pick anyone they want to be on their team, Peck said.
The Student (or Students) of the Year title is given to the candidate or co-candidate in each community who raises the most funds during a seven-week period, she said.
Peck said the program had 12 candidate teams with 19 students representing nine high schools in central Ohio, including Bexley, Dublin Coffman, Delaware Hayes, New Albany, Pickerington Central, Upper Arlington Westerville Central and Worthington Kilbourne.
The fundraising campaign ended March 8 and it accumulated $291,336, shesaid.
This year, the Students of the Year who raised the most money for LLS were co-candidates from Worthington Kilbourne, Megan Grimshaw and Jimmy Sauder, Peck said.
In addition, Troutman won a Mission Award, which is given to a candidate who goes above and beyond to demonstrate leadership, character and community engagement, she said.
Two teams participated from New Albany. In addition to Troutman, 16-year-old sophomore Katherine Meslow was nominated for the Student of the Year program by family friend Robin Williams, also an LLS board member.
Like Troutman, Meslow has a parent who battled cancer. Her mother, Allison, was diagnosed with cancer when Meslow was in the eighth grade, and she has been cancer-free for two years, Meslow said.
During the campaign, Meslow and Troutman raised money in a variety of ways.
Meslow's efforts included several bake sales and a girls' night event, while Troutman's team organized a T-shirt sale and basketball tournament.
Meslow's team earned $45,153, and Troutman's team earned $35,348.
Troutman said knowing he was helping families like Bobby Britton's was his primary motivation.
Behren has had ups and downs during treatment, but he now receives treatment primarily at home, Bobby Britton said.
The 3-year-old receives liquid oral chemotherapy via a syringe every night and additional oral treatments over the weekends, Bobby Britton said. About every six weeks, he receives a heavier dose of chemotherapy at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, he said.
This final phase of treatment, considered "long-term maintenance," will be part of Behren's life for the next 2 1/2 years, Bobby Britton said.
"He's responded very, very well to all treatment," he said.
Bobby Britton lives in New Albany with his wife, Monique. In addition to Behren, the family has two other boys: Rowen, 2, and Caden, 15, a New Albany freshman.