GILES COUNTY, Va. – A man is using his battle against cancer to help make the holidays a little brighter for other families in southwest Virginia with the same struggle this Christmas.
Turning his recovery into a mission to help others, Travis Sparks, of Narrows, started an effort called Cancer Kids and Christmas. Since starting the project six years ago, Sparks has helped 30 families who have a child or parent with cancer in the New River Valley.
Sparks said he was diagnosed in 2012 with cancer. He said he knows firsthand how emotionally and financially draining cancer can be on a family.
“I know what it feels like to sit in that cancer chair, taking the chemo. The sickness. I know what the families are going through. If we can help in just a small way, it makes me feel great,” Sparks said.
The transition from cancer survivor to emotional support for others battling cancer came about after a deal he said he made with God.
"I made a vow that if God would leave me here with my family, I’d do something to help other cancer families. That’s what I intended to do. I didn't know what it was going to be at the time, but that's what we did, and I think God laid it all out for me to see if I would follow through with it,” Sparks said.
His personal mission has soon turned to a community mission. He has sparked neighbors, businesses and organizations to pitch in where they can.
The Cancer Kids and Christmas volunteers hold multiple fundraisers throughout the year to help families who have a parent or child with cancer. Friday night at the Pearisburg Community Center, the group is holding a hot dog supper fundraiser. The event starts at 5 p.m. The fundraiser continues Saturday starting at 8 a.m. with activities and live music performance as well as an auction at 2 p.m.
Sarah Ragsdale, a Giles County native and well-known singer and performer who travels across the country to perform, will be at the event. Now living in New Jersey, she gladly made the trip home just to be there.
“We are all affected by cancer in some way,” Ragsdale said. “We all know someone or have family like myself who has been diagnosed with cancer.”
Ragsdale said the community support surrounding Sparks and his effort has been an inspiration. She wants to continue the effort.
"I think that none of us ever know when it could be us. When tragedy affects our own lives, ourselves or our family. So I think whenever we have the chance, whatever we are going through, we need to go out and be with people, celebrate and help,” Ragsdale said.
Watch her performance on Daytime Blue Ridge here.
Many local businesses and organizations have donated items and gift baskets to auction off at the event on Saturday. All proceeds go to support the 14 families who live across the region.
For more on the event watch Virginia Today on 10 News from 6-8 a.m. on Saturday.