There aren't many things in life worse than a sick child.
In just a short time as a father - my children are 3 and 1 - I've learned that pretty well. An ill, helpless child is simply a sad sight, whether it's an ear infection, breathing trouble or something much worse.
But in those sad times, kids can show remarkable strength. Their positive outlook and fighting spirit can teach us incredible lessons. When they're faced with long odds or grim circumstances, children somehow dig up the courage, grit and smiles that many adults couldn't manage in similar situations.
Those lessons live on for years, even when cancer takes the life of a cool kid like Carter Martin way too soon.
Carter's story is heartbreaking, but it's also inspirational. Although he passed away of Ewing's sarcoma in 2004, just shy of his eighth birthday, the youngster's personality left an indelible mark on a lot of folks in a short time.
Just look at what Carter has inspired his school, Providence Christian Academy, to do for cancer research.
Friday is the third year of the Carter Martin Classic, a day of basketball, silent auctions, a Tom Glavine autograph session and other fun activities. It's all for the same purpose, raising money for Children's Healthcare of Atlanta's Aflac Cancer Center - specifically for the Carter Samuel Martin Experimental Therapy Research Fund.
"We'll have to pack the people in (on Friday)," Providence athletic director and girls basketball coach Dan Davis said. "It's an unbelievable sight what our little ol' school is doing to fight cancer."
"Providence is our second family," said Carter's mother, Leigh Ann Martin. "I don't know how we would have gotten through what we went through with our son without them. They were there at every turn. And to embrace us deeper with (the classic), we're just tremendously grateful."
And none of it would have happened had Carter Martin not blessed the small Christian school with his presence.
A well-liked kid and well-rounded student, Carter was known for being a huge Georgia Tech fan. He later became known for staying upbeat in a dire situation.
Ewing's sarcoma is a painful cancer that brutally attacks bones. For him, it was nearly two years of struggling to fight off cancer. It eventually left him with one leg and a hole in his head.
"Carter never complained," Leigh Ann Martin said. "He faced everything head on and trusted God. The faith that he had at that age, he was 6 when he was diagnosed, I think people fed off that. If this little boy can take cancer head on and smile, I think it caused people to take a look at their own lives and the little things they complain about. He just had a sweet, sweet spirit and a wonderful smile. He just drew people in. People were amazed by his strength, courage and character."
Carter endured 14 cycles of protocol chemotherapy before relapsing and passing away on Sept. 12, 2004. Through it all he taught his fellow students, teachers and everyone else he met about courage, as well as how important it is to find a cure.
"You never saw him down," Davis said. "The kid just had a heart. He was determined to never quit. No matter what happened, he kept fighting. He was just always smiling. He touched so many lives at our school."
That's pretty apparent.
The Carter Martin Classic has raised more than $40,000 each of its first two years, and this year the organizers are really serious.
The school had spirit days to raise money. Young Providence students designed a T-shirt to sell on Friday. Two local Chick-fil-A franchises have stepped up to offer 10 percent of their lunchtime revenue to the fund.
Every autograph Glavine signs on Friday (for $10, two per person) will be for cancer research. Every ticket sold and every pizza, drink or other food item bought will all benefit the same thing. That's not even taking into consideration a bake sale, other donations and a big silent auction.
All told, the school hopes to raise $65,000 to $75,000 off this one event. It helps tremendously at Children's Healthcare, a wonderful place that does so much for sick and injured children.
So if you're free Friday night, go out to Providence and donate what you can. If you can't, mail a donation to the Aflac Cancer Center and note that it's for the "Carter Martin Fund."
Help Carter's fund ease the pain of other sick children.
Will Hammock can be reached via e-mail at email@example.com. His column appears on Thursdays.
CARTER MARTIN CLASSIC
Where: Providence Christian Academy
To benefit: Carter Samuel Martin Experimental Therapy Research Fund of the Aflac Cancer Center
• 4 and 5:30 p.m. - Girls and boys junior varsity games
• 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. -
Autograph signing session with MLB pitcher Tom Glavine
• 6:45 p.m. to 7 p.m. -
Presentation of funds and video of Carter Martin
• 7 and 8:30 p.m. -
Girls and boys varsity games vs. Dawson County