February 13, 2019
Aaron Lai, a junior in Social Studies Education within the College of Education, is making waves this month in his bid to walk over 100 miles from Purdue University all the way to Indiana University in Bloomington, Ind. for the final Purdue v. IU game on Feb. 19. The motivation for this seemingly crazy feat? Lai attributes it to the inspiration he found in Tyler Trent, a 20-year-old Purdue student who passed away on Jan. 2, 2019 after battling osteosarcoma, a rare form of bone cancer. Inspiring many through his optimistic outlook on life and outgoing personality, Tyler devoted much of his time to cheering on Purdue’s sports teams, most prominently, the Purdue football team. In honor of Tyler’s love for Purdue football and the legacy he has left, Lai is raising money through the Tyler Trent Cancer Research Endowment, with the Walther Cancer Foundation matching every penny raised.
Aaron’s goal is to hit $10k before the walk, and he more than halfway there as of Wednesday, Feb. 13. He is happy with the donations and support he has gained so far. “The community has given so much support and love for the cause,” he says. “My fraternity and parents have given me endless help and encouragement that motivates me to work harder on spreading the word.”
Along with Aaron’s own interest in philanthropy through his fraternity, Delta Chi, and their contributions to the Jimmy V Foundation for Cancer Research, his inspiration for the 100-mile walk stemmed from his own personal connection to cancer. His grandfather, Chai Dechang, died of lung cancer two years ago. Lai says his grandfather’s optimism and bravery in the face of a life-threatening disease inspired him greatly—two traits Tyler certainly exhibited in the time he spent at Purdue.
“Tyler Trent’s never-give-up attitude is my inspiration to work hard and keep fighting for the things I want to do,” Aaron says, and shares a quote he finds particularly inspiring from Tyler:
“Though I am in hospice care and have to wake up every morning knowing that the day might be my last, I still have a choice to make: to make that day the best it can be…Yet isn’t that a choice we all have every day? After all, nobody knows the amount of days we have left. Some could say we are all in hospice to a certain degree. So why don’t we act like it?”
Although he never met Tyler, Aaron felt inspired by his positive outlook on life, despite the terminal disease he lived with. Aaron carries Tyler’s optimism with him into other academic interests at Purdue and sees himself traveling, teaching, and coaching in the future in an effort to always inspire others around him.
Through the College of Education, Aaron says he has learned the true value of teachers and understands the hard work and dedication to the profession. “The College of Education allows me to learn how to be the best teacher that I can be as well as what my future students need,” he says.
Next week, Aaron plans to begin walking around 7a.m. on Sunday, Feb. 17, choosing to get most of his walking out of the way early on. He will be taking several breaks around every 10 miles, with the rallying support of his fraternity brothers providing food and water at each checkpoint he reaches.
When Aaron laces up his walking shoes and starts his long two-and-a-half day trek to Bloomington, he’ll be thinking of Tyler Trent. He hopes that you, too, will remember his legacy and strive for the optimism that he embodied throughout his time at Purdue.
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