Even as Travis Hess was taking on his most difficult cancer battle ever, his thoughts were about helping others facing similar challenges, especially those families who have lost children to cancer.
Mr. Hess, ‘01, business, beat skin cancer seven times and fought off colon, brain, and chest cancer. Cancer finally took him on Friday, April 5, 2013. He’d had grandparents, uncles, and aunts die of cancer. His father died at 49, and one of his brothers died at 19 of cancer. His sister beat breast cancer at 32 and a brain tumor at 39. Three of his five children have been diagnosed with the disease, and his daughter Alexis died at age three from a rare childhood cancer.
When Alexis died Mr. Hess had trouble finding the money to pay for the funeral. Family and friends donated some money, and an anonymous donor contributed $1,000 that helped the family make it through that difficult time. After that he established the Hess Cancer Foundation, a non-profit organization that has helped about two dozen families in need pay for funeral costs for their children. Brad Hess said it brought his brother to tears when he told him he would continue on the work of the foundation for him.
“If we can put it together and help this thing grow, I think it is something that can continue to help families at a time when they really need the help,” said Brad, who is now president of the foundation. “As you can imagine, families will do anything to cover the medical expenses of the child. Then when it doesn’t work, they don’t have any money, and they have stacks and stacks of medical bills they will be paying for the next 20 years. That’s when they have to come up with thousands of dollars to show proper respect for their kids.”