Three years ago, Matt Clark learned his friend and classmate, Mark Thurbush, was diagnosed with lymphoma, a blood cancer.
A student in the Carlson School of Management’s Executive MBA program at the time, Clark says he was moved to tears that day.
“We’re all sitting there waiting for class to start complaining about homework and kids and how to find balance and Mark walks in and says, ‘I have cancer,’” recalls Clark, a banker with U.S. Bank business banking in the Twin Cities.
In the years that followed, Clark not only stood by his friend while he battled his disease, together the two raised $30,000 to support research and awareness of leukemia and lymphoma – a feat that helped earn Clark a coveted spot in The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s 2013 Man/Woman of the Year competition.
Man & Woman of the Year is a fun and unique ten-week fundraising competition to benefit The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS). Candidates are nominated to use their leadership skills to conduct individual fundraising campaigns. Every dollar raised counts as one vote. The candidates with the most votes at the end of the 10 weeks are named the Man & Woman of the Year.
The 2013 campaign will officially begin with a Kickoff Celebration on March 7, and culminate with the Grand Finale Gala on Friday, May 17 at the graves|601 hotel downtown Minneapolis.
Clark is one of six nominees for Man of the Year. Others include musician Tim Mahoney, Adam Carter of WCCO Radio, George Masmanides of Live 2 B Healthy Senior Fitness, Mark Moroney of Corporate 1st Impression and political consultant Andy Noble.
“Some of these guys are local celebrities,” Clark said. “I’ve got my work cut out for me, but I’m up to the challenge. I know with a company like U.S. Bank behind me, I’ve got a great shot. I want to take Mark’s story and the stories of others battling this disease and raise as much money as we can.”
Both Chicago natives and Twin Cities transplants, Clark and Thurbush instantly hit it off when their MBA program began. By the spring, the two had become close friends and Clark was determined not to let his friend fight this new battle alone.
“Matt is one of those guys who gets you to believe and ask more in yourself,” said Thurbush, a veteran of the United States Air Force who served in several over sea operations including Operation Southern Watch and Operation Iraqi Freedom.
A few short months after Thurbush’s diagnosis, Clark started to accompany his friend on his chemo treatments. The two spent hours chatting and playing Monopoly. “We talked a lot of baseball, namely a lot of Cubs baseball,” Clark said.
And when Thurbush grew tired from the treatments, Clark waited patiently while his friend slept.
When Thurbush’s treatments eventually came to an end and he was told he was in remission, he asked Clark to help him pay his good fortune forward.
“My goal started out as $5,000 dollars, but after a 30-minute lunch with Matt, he convinced me that our goal should be $50,000! That is typical of Matt; always pushing himself to give 10 times the effort as others,” said Thurbush.
The friends got together and devised a plan to raise as much money as they could to support research and awareness of the disease. Over the course of three years, they raised $30,000 through their own networks of family and friends. They hope to hit the $50,000 mark by February 22, 2015 -- the 5 year anniversary of Mark’s diagnosis.
“Matt is one of those guys who steps forward in times of adversity, always supporting his friends and family,” Thurbush said. “He’s truly an amazing friend. Just be careful when you go over life goals with him during lunch, he will never let you settle!”
As a candidate for Man of the Year, Clark is starting from scratch. His goal, he says is to exceed the $30,000 he and Thurbush previously raised.
“God put this guy in my life,” Clark said of his friend. “There is no other reason why I’d get up at 3:45 a.m. for my workouts, do a good job for U.S. Bank and still have time to pay it forward and help this guy out.”