Tech homecoming king candidate campaigns for a cause
BLACKSBURG – Nathan Orban has never stepped foot in Lane Stadium.
By Saturday afternoon, the 7-year-old former cancer patient might call the more than 66,000-seat venue his kingdom.
Nathan has teamed up with Virginia Tech senior Chris Atkins, 23, in an effort to have Nathan named the Hokies’ 2013 homecoming king and in hopes of raising money and awareness for leukemia and lymphoma.
Should Atkins, the male representative from Tech’s FarmHouse Fraternity, be announced the winner during halftime of Saturday’s football game against the University of North Carolina, he plans to immediately relinquish the crown to Nathan and make him king for the day.
Tech Associate Director of Student Centers and Activities Monica Hunter said it was the first time in her tenure working with the homecoming program that she could recall a candidate taking such an active role in a philanthropic cause.
Atkins said the campaign, named King for a Cause, stemmed from the fraternity’s decision to take a different approach to this year’s campaign.
“We believe homecoming is truly about coming together,” Atkins said. “We wanted to use a different method to bring people together; instead of a competition, we chose a cause.”
As a part of the homecoming celebration, each representative is escorted onto the field by a person he or she has selected as a role model.
Atkins contacted the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, with which the fraternity has a long-standing relationship, in hopes of finding his perfect role model, as well as the perfect representative for the society’s cause.
The organization introduced the senior Hokie to Nathan, a second-grade student from Powhatan County, who is approaching the second anniversary of his last chemotherapy treatment.
Diagnosed with leukemia at the age of 2, Nathan’s life was filled for three years with regular chemo treatments, spinal taps, blood and platelet transfusions, said his mom, Emily Orban.
Orban said that because of Nathan’s age, she didn’t think, at the time, that her son understood the drastic nature of his condition, but the situation impacted the entire family.
“A new normal day for us was doctor’s offices and chemo,” Orban said. “You really took for granted what you used to do every day, just popping in the car and going to the store.”
On Oct. 15, 2011, Nathan had his last chemotherapy treatment and is now considered to be in remission. He has blood count checks every other month and, after fives years off chemotherapy, will be officially labeled a cancer survivor.
About a month ago, Orban said she was contacted by a Leukemia and Lymphoma Society representative who knew Nathan was a huge Tech fan and asked about the family’s interest in the possibility of him joining Atkins’ campaign.
“I was just shocked that a college student would put their time in the limelight aside for something like this,” Orban said.
Orban and her husband, Jamie, invited Atkins to Powhatan in early September to meet Nathan.
The two spent the afternoon watching football, playing outside and hanging out in Nathan’s maroon-and-orange painted bedroom.
“He’s the greatest Tech fan I’ve ever met,” Atkins said.
Atkins returned to Blacksburg and, along with his fraternity brothers, began speaking to various groups on campus about the campaign, while also selling T-shirts and launching a website in hopes of raising enough money to set up a LLS fund in Nathan’s name.
“It’s amazing how the Hokie nation has truly grasped this concept and has truly helped out,” Atkins said.
On Wednesday, the King for a Cause Facebook page, which was created on Sept. 22, listed more 1,500 “likes,” while the YouTube video explaining the cause had been viewed over 2,100 times since Sept. 24.
Orban said the family plans to travel to Blacksburg on Friday, when Nathan is scheduled to make his official first public campaign appearance by joining Atkins atop the fraternity’s float in the homecoming parade that afternoon.
On Saturday, Nathan and his family have bigger plans.
“I get to go out on the field with the players,” Nathan said.
Emily, Jamie and younger brother Jackson Orban plan to be in the stands when Nathan takes the field alongside Atkins.
“It would by far be the greatest experience of my life,” Atkins said. “To be able to give Nathan something he wouldn’t be able to get any other way would be an amazing thing.”
For more information or to donate to the King for a Cause fund, visit www.kingforacause.com.
The Roanoke Times | 381-1643