Beyond the Card: Man of the Year
For someone who was recently named “Man of the Year” by the Michigan Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and raised $30,000 toward finding a cure, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan IT Director Dave Doney remains incredibly grounded. “I want to tell people that this isn’t about me,” he says. In other words: The mission he’s on is much bigger than himself.
Doney’s commitment to finding a cure for leukemia and lymphoma isn’t for show, awards or accolades—it’s his way of turning loss into life. In 2013, Doney’s niece, Katy Doney, passed away at the young age of 24 after a five-year battle with leukemia. This wasn’t the first time he lost a loved one—his own son passed away at the same age in a car accident.
“My brother and I both lost a child, but my son’s death was unexpected and there wasn’t much I could do after that,” Doney said. “After Katy passed and seeing what my brother and his wife went through, I wanted to do more. It wasn’t for our family anymore; it was for others.” Katy’s passing became a turning point for Doney.
His first, large fundraising step was attending a “Light the Night Walk” in Toledo, Ohio, close to the Cleveland Clinic where Katy received most of her cancer treatment. Light the Night fundraising events are held by the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society to build awareness of blood cancers, as well as raise money for research and support of patients and their families. Dave’s dedication to the cause then took an even larger turn, he started contacting friends, family, coworkers and even friends of friends for donations in Katy’s name. In 2014, his first year of fundraising, he raised $15,000.
After the event, Dave was approached by a representative of the Michigan Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (MLLS) to run for its prestigious, “Man of the Year” award. All of the candidates and their teams are tasked with raising money for the cause.
“I was hesitant at first,” he says. “But after some persuasion from the organization and my sister-in-law, who was still reeling from Katy’s passing, I decided to run. I wanted to give the cause 100 percent of my effort and dedication.”
Dave and his team of friends and family surpassed their fundraising goals, bringing in approximately $30,000 from donors. His tremendous work and unmatched passion ultimately led to Dave’s acceptance of MLLS’ 2016 Man of the Year award. The fundraising efforts have brought meaning, pride and peace to Dave and his extended family in the wake of tremendous loss.
And he’s not finished. The accolade has only pushed Dave to continue fundraising and helping to touch the lives of others struggling with this disease. He’s met children who have directly benefited from the thousands of dollars personally raised, remembering specifically, a young boy in a baseball uniform who was in remission thanks to donors and leaders like Dave who help fund new treatment and ongoing research.
“I always tell people, there’s two paths you can take. You can take the path where you’re very depressed and mad, and that’s a tough life to live. Or, you can take the high road and say you want to help others,” Doney says. “Nothing’s going to bring Katy back, but if I can prevent other families from going through what we went through, that’s what I’m going to do.”
This post is part of a storytelling series we call, “Beyond the Card.” These stories will feature Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan members, employees, and communities who are making meaningful differences throughout our state.
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