Homers for Heroes
What: Sixteen companies will compete in a home run derby to benefit Nathan Sexton
When: Saturday, May 7 from 12-5 p.m.
Where: AT&T Field
How much: $5 in advance at homers4heroes.com or $10 at the gate
Concessions will be open and their will be a fast pitch, long throw and base running competition for children. Donation’s can be made to benefit Sexton at fightlikenate.com
Nathan Sexton is running faster than ever.
Six weeks after completing the Chattanooga Half Marathon ahead of more than 93 percent of the field and returning to his Signal Mountain home to take chemotherapy pills that night, the 29-year-old husband and father has taken up trail running and is eyeing several upcoming races.
"Running has just been the best medicine," Sexton said Tuesday. "It really has."
The former vice president of operations at Bellhops is battling stage four glioblastoma, an invasive brain cancer that left him with a 15-month prognosis last June, about 10 months ago.
A late March MRI scan showed tumor regrowth, leading Sexton's doctor to recommend he stop taking chemotherapy and begin looking into clinical trials.
That's where the public comes in.
A group of Sexton's co-workers have organized the first annual "Homers for Heroes" event for May 7 at AT&T Field, home of the Chattanooga Lookouts. It's a home run derby tournament pitting 16 local businesses against each other, and its purpose is to raise money for Sexton's upcoming treatment.
"They have just been so incredible at coming up with this unreal fundraiser," Sexton said. "Obviously, we are going to raise money for me. But really, I want this to carry on and be something that they do every single year. Not just for me, but to pick a different hero each year."
The event is open to the public — admission is $5 at homers4heroes.com now and $10 the day of the event — and will feature fast pitch, long throw and base-running competitions for kids.
Concessions — including $2.50 beers — will be open for the event, which will last from noon until 5 p.m., as hitters from the local businesses slug it out to see who can hit the most homers over a temporary 300-foot fence.
"It's going to be a great Saturday, and it's a time for the whole city to come together and rally behind one of the most amazing individuals in our community," Bellhops co-founder Cameron Doody said. "The Lookouts have been right there with us on planning every bit of the way. All proceeds are going straight into Nathan's bank account, and they've been totally open to making sure this event is about Nathan."
Doody said EPB, which is one of the competing companies, has agreed to air commercials for the event on 65 channels. Local creative content agency Fancy Rhino produced the 30-second commercial, in addition to a mini-documentary chronicling Sexton's fight against cancer that directs supporters to fightlikenate.com, where donations can be made.
"The goal for Nathan is another $100,000," Doody said. "Clinical trials are in his future, and that means a lot of traveling and staying in hotels. So it's going to be pretty costly."
Sexton is traveling to Birmingham this week for some preliminary measures, as he seeks to get cleared for a clinical trial at the University of Alabama at Birmingham utilizing a drug called Nivolumab and another drug.
"What the actual trial will look like is me going down there every two weeks, getting an infusion of that Nivolumab, and there's also another drug I'll be getting," Sexton said. "Basically, both Nivolumab and this other drug, they're checkpoint inhibitors. Basically all that means is they activate your T cells to attack cancer cells."
The hope, Sexton said, is that if he's approved for the trial, it will reactivate some of his immune system and hopefully lead to reduced tumor growth or a reduction in the tumor.
In the meantime, Sexton is running.
"It's really more and more true, the whole strength-out-of-pain concept," he said. "Running has really helped me a ton in dealing with all of this."
Sexton finished in the top 18 percent of the 10.2-mile River Gorge trail race in late March and in the top 15 percent of the Natura Calls 15K on April 10 at the Lula Lake Land Trust.
He is signed up for the Oct. 1 Rock/Creek Stump Jump 50K and planning to run California's Napa-to-Sonoma Wine Country Half Marathon on July 17 with a goal pace of 7 minutes per mile.
That would be 44 seconds per mile faster than when he blew away his goals in the half marathon and beat all 40 of his co-workers from Bellhops, a growing Warehouse Row start-up moving company.
"I had two seizures last week, which was a real bummer," Sexton said. "That kind of set me back, but I'm feeling pretty good now. I can't really work. It sounds weird that I can go on a run. But I can't stare at a computer screen without feeling like I'm about to have another seizure.
"You would think it would be tough on your mind to run, but it's really just very clearing."
Contact staff writer David Cobb at email@example.com or 423-757-6249.