Fire chief runs marathon for colleague with cancer

Division Chief Joy Ponder, who survived cancer herself, ran the Black Mountain Marathon to honor Will Willis, who recently died of kidney cancer


By FireRescue1 Staff

ASHEVILLE, N.C. — A fire chief ran a marathon to honor a firefighter who recently died of cancer.

Asheville Fire Department fire engineer Will Willis was diagnosed with terminal kidney cancer and was told he had three to six months to live just before Thanksgiving.

Division Chief Joy Ponder, who recently survived cancer, raised money for Will Willis by running the Black Mountain Marathon just two days before Willis died on his 34th birthday. (Photo/Asheville Fire Department)
Division Chief Joy Ponder, who recently survived cancer, raised money for Will Willis by running the Black Mountain Marathon just two days before Willis died on his 34th birthday. (Photo/Asheville Fire Department)

Division Chief Joy Ponder, who recently survived cancer, raised money for him by running the Black Mountain Marathon just two days before Willis died on his 34th birthday.

“Finishing a marathon is symbolic of 'anything is possible,' and that is what we need to remember about Will,” Ponder said after the marathon. “He is one of the best firefighters we have and a wonderful person so we all need to pull together and help him and his family. Cancer brought me to my knees with surgeries, chemo and radiation but I’m thankful for my growing strength, this day, and my small steps up this mountain to bring awareness to everyone about Will’s ongoing battle.”

Willis was able to make it to the marathon and cheer Chief Ponder on, even standing up for her as she crossed the finish line.

 

One Team one Fight!!

Posted by Asheville Fire Department on Saturday, February 24, 2018

 

Willis died Tuesday, just three days after the marathon. A GoFundMe was created to raise money for his family, and it has already collected almost $60,000. You can click here to donate.

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