Each of the seven finalists for the Uplifting Athletes Rare Disease Champion Award will have their story featured here. In order to vote for the next Rare Disease Champion, please visit our voting page here. The winner will be announced on February 1st.
College: Fordham University
Rare disease connection: Milmore is president of the Fordham Uplifting Athletes chapter. The Rams chose to adopt extrarenal rhabdoid tumors, a form of pediatric brain cancer, as their rare disease in 2011 in honor of Ty Campbell, a then four-year old who was battling the rare disease. Andrew has been an advocate for fundraising for Uplifting Athletes with all proceeds going to help research for pediatric brain cancer. Ty Campbell passed away in October 2012.
His Story: Sometimes life’s biggest lessons are learned when one least expects it.
Fordham’s Andrew Milmore had heard about Uplifting Athletes through team roommates. The senior offensive lineman thought working with the organization might be a good way to bring together the team.
The idea was, with his roommates’ help, to start a new chapter at Fordham and raise awareness for a rare disease. It would be a great way to spend the little extra time these roommates had.
Andrew quickly grabbed the reigns and became the chapter’s first president. He looked forward to the challenges ahead and was excited when the chapter decided to raise money for extra renal rhabdoid tumor, a very rare and aggressive form of cancer that can attack the kidneys, central nervous system, as well as the liver, heart and lungs.
“We were paired with Ty Campbell,” Andrew explains. “He instantly became part of the team.”
Ty Campbell was not quite three when he was diagnosed with the tumor found on his spinal cord. With a contagious smile, he was a perfect fit. He may have only been pint-sized, but he showed the Fordham football team how to battle with heart.
Andrew watched as his team rallied behind Campbell, who attended a few practices as he was fighting for his life. He was inspiring to Andrew and his teammates and was showing improvements medically. Milmore truly believed the chapter was going to make a difference, especially for Ty.
The Rams received a new teammate and his contributions, he believed, were hard to put into words.
At home games this past season, Andrew organized gate takes, essentially donation cans for fans to give generously to the cause. Andrew says it was all going well – the team was winning and donations were great for a first year chapter. There was a positive energy.
But then Andrew received devastating news.
“Ty was going into hospice care,” Milmore said. “There was a realization of what that meant. Our work became real.”
Ty Campbell died October 17, 2012, just 13 days after his 5th birthday. Andrew admits the death hit him really hard.
It wasn’t just about X’s and O’s and donations at the stadium entrance. Overcome by sadness, Andrew reached out to the Campbell’s, a family whom he had developed a relationship with over the past year.
“By the end of the conversation, it was almost as if Ty’s mom was comforting me,” he said.
The team decided to name Ty’s parents, Lou and Cindy, honorary captains for the Lafayette game on November 10th, not even a month after Ty’s passing. The team wore yellow wristbands and shoelaces in Ty’s honor; the color yellow is color worn for pediatric brain cancer. After the game, the Campbell family was presented the game ball.
It was an emotional moment, a moment that Andrew says left a mark on him and his teammates.
In a relatively short time, Andrew Milmore says Uplifting Athletes has made a huge impact on his life. He believes his teammates have been positively affected as well. He’s considering law school after graduation in May. Yet, he senses he has unfinished business with the rare disease community. Meeting the Campbell family changed his life. And while Ty’s life couldn’t be saved, Milmore hopes that the work the Fordham chapter is doing can save someone else’s.
“I feel like we’ve done a lot, but then I think of how much more we could be doing,” Andrew says.
Ty lost his fight, but Andew Milmore certainly hasn’t lost his.