It is with great honor that the 14th Annual Miles for Michael Pittston Tomato Festival 5K Race is dedicated in memory of two very special people whom I hold close to my heart, Sean T. Walsh and Justin Burns.
When you mention the name Sean T. Walsh to a room full of people who knew him, all smiles will magically appear. Sean was known to many as a great guy who loved to make people smile. Sean had a tremendous passion for trucks of all kinds. He was the owner of S & S Detailing on the Pittston Bypass. At the garage, he would make every vehicle he touched shine like no other. He took great pride in making trucks sparkle with his magic touch.
Sean was diagnosed with stage 4 adenocarcinoma esophageal cancer in November 2008. He underwent chemotherapy and radiation before his surgery in March 2009 to remove the cancer and part of his esophagus. After the surgery, Sean had another full round of chemo and radiation.
For a year and a half, Sean was cancer free. During that time, he drove trucks for Logan's Transport and started his own detailing business at S & S Detailing.
In July 2011, Sean was re-diagnosed with cancer yet again. This time, the cancer had spread to his stomach lining and small intestines. Within six short weeks, the cancer spread to the Meninges of the brain. All options were explored and given a chance, from strong chemo and radiation to direct Ommaya Reservoir intraventricular catheter which provided direct chemo to Sean's brain.
Throughout all of his treatment, Sean remained optimistic and tried to fight this until the very end. Sadly, at just 38 years old, Sean passed away on December 24, 2011. His smile, spirit and sense of humor live in all of us who loved him.
To many of us, Justin Burns is a saint. In his short life of only nine years, he touched the lives of so many people. My family and I had the privilege of loving this red-headed little boy. His love for "Elmer" pug, SpongeBob, Mario and Penn State will always be remembered by the smile on his face in every picture.
Nine-year-old Justin Burns, son of Maria and Jeff Burns, passed away on May 31, 2012 from leukemia. He was such a strong boy who endured so many life challenges in his short life.
At age 3, Justin had his first open heart surgery to repair two holes in his heart. A year later, he had a second heart surgery to repair the mitral valve. Both surgeries were successful. Shortly after the second surgery, he developed the staph infection MRSA in his chest wound which required a lengthy hospital stay and two months of antibiotics.
At age 5, Justin was diagnosed with ALL, a type of leukemia. He underwent many months of chemo and eventually went in to remission. A few months later, the cancer returned and he had to have aggressive chemo and radiation and eventually a bone marrow transplant.
He was hospitalized for three months. He finally got to come home two days before Christmas, which was the best present ever. He was doing so well he only had to travel to Hershey Medical Center twice a week. Life was finally getting back to normal for all of us...
The horrible news came right after his ninth birthday - the cancer had come back and there was nothing more they could do for him. Those are the worst words you could hear about your child. The doctors told us he only had about 2 months to live. Jeff and I were crushed.
When parents Maria and Jeff found out there son had only two short months to live, friends and family came together to make sure Justin had the best birthday celebration ever. The smile on Justin's face that day will never be forgotten as he watched a magic show, danced with his best friend Gianna Richards to his favorite song, bounced in the bouncy house and spent time with all who loved him.
Rest in peace Sweet Angel Justin Burns.
Michelle Hopkins is the co-director of the Pittston Tomato Festival 5K Race.