By Nicholas Malfitano
If one was to personify words such as “selfless” and “altruism”, one conversation with Will Peoples would likely be enough to convince that he is a candidate for such definitions.
Peoples, a 32 year-old athletic trainer and married father of two children in Philadelphia, was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) earlier this year. It’s one of the more devastating forms of that cancer, characterized by attack to the lymphoid line of blood cells and rapid progression; one which necessitates immediate treatment if one is to survive it.
And yet, Peoples’s focus was then and is now on other people: Both those who have helped him battle the disease and the impact it has had on his family, and also those he now seeks to help in turn.
For the aptly-named Peoples, his life journey continues.
It’s a journey which was interrupted by his leukemia diagnosis in February.
“I went into the hospital for in-patient therapy. I had [undergone] a series of chemo and I went into remission for about three months. Then, I had a bone marrow transplant from my father, who was my donor,” Peoples recalled.
At that time, Peoples’s doctors spoke with Mike Rowe, founder of Legacy of Hope, to connect the two men in the hopes that the organization could assist Peoples and his family.
“From a conversation that I wasn’t in, but that Mike and my doctors were in, they basically told Mike about me. I met Mike a month or so ago. My wife and I had a chat with him about our situation,” Peoples said.
Since then, Peoples explained that Legacy of Hope has been able to actively support him and his family with their living expenses, for which they are very grateful.
“Legacy of Hope actually came to me, and I appreciate the way that Mike and the foundation [did so]. They go searching for families. They don’t give to those who are stable, they look for folks who are most in need at the time. Mike told me stories about how he kept folks in their homes, because they were evicted. It’s all for a good cause that he’s doing it,” Peoples said.
Peoples added that a cancer diagnosis usually means that those in that position and working a full-time job will need to stop working, and if they have a partner, that partner can sometimes take on the role of caregiver.
That was the case with Peoples’s wife Brooke, who had been working full-time until her husband’s leukemia diagnosis last February.
Subsequent to that diagnosis, the disease did adversely impact Peoples’s ability to work. An athletic trainer by profession, his undergraduate studies in college consisted of a double major in both biology and athletic training.
“I was certified about a year or so ago. Pretty much what I do is that I go to different sporting events throughout the city and suburbs and do coverage, both pre- and post-coverage,” Peoples stated.
Peoples said pre-coverage consists of stretching and taping various parts of the body, while post-coverage includes application of ice and post-activity stretching. He added that he attends games of various sports at all levels, both amateur and professional, to provide these athletic training services where the need is greatest.
Such services would do well to come in handy for runners participating in next March’s Love Run Half-Marathon and 7K races. Those both looking to run and contribute to the work Legacy of Hope does, can sign up through the group’s #PhillyRunsFree initiative.
Peoples and his wife are both registered to participate in the half-marathon.
Runners who sign up for the Love Run Half-Marathon or 7K on March 29, 2020 and raise $200 for Legacy of Hope, will have their race registration fee automatically refunded.
Runners can visit Philly Runs Free to register for the Love Run Half-Marathon. When prompted, select “Philly Runs Free Opt-In.” All runners who opt-in are still eligible to run with their home team and will be prompted to join that team during the registration process.
“Last year, we had 350 runners from all over come together to support the Philadelphia cancer community. They raised $131,000 in the process. The show of unity was inspiring and uplifting for anyone involved in the fight against cancer,” Rowe said.
Returning to Peoples and in keeping with his area of professional expertise, he offered advice to runners participating in the Love Run Half-Marathon and 7K races next March.
“My goal is to prepare runners as much as I can for these races. For new runners or seasoned runners, of just how to stretch out major muscle groups that get affected when running long distances: A lot of lower extremity stretches, hamstrings, and quads. Older folks have a lot more overuse [injuries], so there’s a lot of attention to the calf, things like calf strains or Achilles [tendon] tears,” Peoples said.
But, Peoples’s desire to help others doesn’t stop with athletes.
His simultaneous mission is to assist fellow cancer patients and their families, taking the support he received after his diagnosis and paying it forward through sharing the insight of his own battle, in order to provide knowledge and information to others who are in his and his family’s same position.
“Throughout everything, my goal is to be able to reciprocate that type of love and support to other folks that are dealing with what I was dealing with. To be able to give them experience from where I’ve had experience, what to expect, things of that nature. My goal is to pretty much advocate for and help as many people as I can, who are dealing with what I dealt with,” Peoples stated.