By Katherine Parker
The Norman Transcript
NORMAN — Cody Ponder’s positive attitude was infectious even while he struggled with esophageal cancer. He always worked to help others and his giving spirit inspired a 5k race to benefit struggling patients. Last year Cody’s family organized a run in his honor in Ardmore. Cody lost his battle against cancer this past November, but his friends and family once again put together the second annual Cody’s Run to remember Cody and his hope that his experiences would inform the larger fight to eradicate cancer.
The sanctioned 5k race and 1 mile fun walk went around the University of Oklahoma’s main campus, beginning near the Oklahoma Memorial Union. The event was sponsored by Cleveland Area Rapid Transit.
All proceeds from this year’s run will go directly to the Cody Ponder Emergency Endowment Fund, established through the University of Oklahoma Foundation to benefit patients at OU’s Stephenson Cancer Center. The fund provides small grants administered by professional social workers to patients who experience unanticipated financial emergencies that might interrupt treatment.
“Students wrote a letter asking for an endowment in Cody’s name because of the impact he had on everyone,” Johnnie-Margaret McConnell, Cody’s wife, said. “Cody was always about bettering the lives of others.”
Cody went to the Stephenson Cancer Center at the University of Oklahoma for treatment because he found its research teams and medical staff were
supportive and accessible and provided quality care,
“The care we received at the Stephenson Cancer Center was amazing. The staff was with us every step of the way.”
The fundraiser’s goal was to match last year’s number of participants, which was around 300, McConnell said. The night before Saturday’s run, three hundred twenty three had registered.
“Our goal was to raise $10,000 and we’ve already raised over $14,000,” McConnell said. “The fund should kick into action soon and begin to help patients.”
Besides raising money, McConnell said she hopes the event educates the community about cancer and treatment facility options.
“We want people to know that a full service cancer centers exists,” McConnell explained. “For Cody, as a patient, and for myself, as his primary care giver, it (Stephenson Cancer Center) made life so much easier. Everything was in one place, all the doctors and varying treatments.”
To make the run as fun as possible and reflective of Cody’s spirit, music, photos and an awards ceremony for top finishers were all a part of Cody’s Run. Participants also took a moment of silence to remember the lives lost in the Oklahoma City bombing on April 19 1995.
“Cody was a little ornery … so for fun we’re going to have a cardboard cutout of Cody that people can take selfie pictures with for a donation,” McConnell said. “I’ll be wearing his ‘Screw Cancer’ shirt too.”
Cody was born to Kenton Ponder and Danell Vernon Bray December 21, 1977 in Healdton, Oklahoma. He grew up in Lone Grove and Wilson and was one of 31 first cousins. He began working for OU’s C.A.R.T. in 2006 as a grants specialist. He was promoted in 2012 to serve as the Assistant Director of Transportation for OU.
Cody was married to Johnnie-Margaret for 15 years. In September 2011, he was named a “Top 40 Under 40” in public transportation for the entire country by Mass Transit Magazine. Cody was a member of the 2011 Leadership Norman Class and served on the boards of Full Circle Adult Day Care, Norman’s Social and Voluntary Services committee, United Way and American Red Cross’s Heart of Oklahoma chapter.
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