I would like to tell you about my hero, an amazing person who recently passed away from a 4 1/2 year battle with Leukemia. His name is Louie Bonpua.
Instead of spending the past 4 1/2 years focused on himself and the cancer trying to take his life, Louie connected with a group
that's dedicated to finding a cure. He entered the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society's "Team in Training" to be an
honoree, which is essentially someone surviving the disease that provides the team members with visible motivation to why their
fundraising efforts are so important.
Louie didn't stand still for long, nor did he do things in any way but his own.
It wasn't long before Louie insisted upon adding the title of "Team in Training member" to his "Honoree" status. He joined the
team and started training for his first triathlon, raising money for the society, and elevating his ability to motivate team members
to a new level. It soon became common to hear, "If Louie is out here doing it, then what am I complaining about?". His actions
motivated the many he touched, which included those he met in person, through email, visitors to his web site, and even through
the many news stories published about his strength and courage to battle his way through triathlons. He became famous for his
smile, he never left home without it, even during the nastiest workouts, during the most painful moments in a triathlon, or even
after bad test results from the hospital, Louie always had that smile.
Soon he got the Ironman bug. He started training with the Ironteam, 10 months of workouts, 6 days a week, Saturdays and
Sundays swimming, biking, and running. Why, I asked? "Because I want to show people that you can still live, even when they
tell you you're going to die" he responds. He wanted to prove that there's no reason to ever give up hope, and he did. On
August 26, 2001, Louie crossed the finish line in Penticton, British Columbia with the crowd chanting "Louie, Louie, Louie." Does it stop here? No.
He had planned more triathlons for 2002, including another Ironman. This time he wanted to conquer Hawaii's Ironman competition. But first there was this little relay that he kept moaning about, the Olympic Torch Relay, Louie had been
nominated by his teammates to carry the torch when it came through the Bay Area. Of course the Olympic Committee accepted, how could they not, there were thousands of nominations with Louie's name on them.
Louie complained "but it's only .2 miles, think they'll let me run it for a couple miles?". He wanted more... there's no doubt that that
was definitely Louie speaking.
Louie was hospitalized only 3 days before the Olympic Torch Relay, but you've probably figured there was no way to stop him
from performing his duties. While the doctors were hesitant to release him for this once in a lifetime chore, there was a team of
friends working on project "Breakout Louie." We had an Ambulance, a nurse, a group that wouldn't take "no" from the medical
staff, and one determined Ironman. Louie was going to carry the torch, no question there.
Luckily for him, the doctors finally agreed to let him out of the hospital for this honor. The ambulance company donated their services, and all the pieces fell into place on what still seems to have been the most beautiful sunrise in years! Louie shocked all his fans, what seemed to be thousands, by walking the torch for those .2 miles, even though he was in pain from the rapid
advancement of his Leukemia. All the while, the smile on Louie's face was wider than I've ever seen - he was so happy holding onto that torch and walking the crowd towards the Golden Gate Bridge, just like the pied piper.
Louie passed away just a couple days after the Olympic Torch Relay, fighting for every last achievement, living life to the
fullest for each second that ticked off, and always doing it "Louie's way."
He's my hero for a couple small reasons, and one very large reason.
First, he was concerned about every person he touched, no matter whether they actually met in person, through email, phone
calls, whatever. Second, he had the unique capability of bringing people together, each person he touched was truly inspired by
his efforts through life, he became a hero to so very many people including thousands of people that have only heard about
him through friends of friends of friends.
Finally, Louie illuminated the hero in all those that he touched. There
are thousands of minds out there working overtime right now, finding ways to improve others' lives, to
inspire others to fight harder, or to make a
difference. Louie's efforts will continue to grow in magnitude, within so many of those he touched these recent years.
I'd never met anyone like Louie before, but after my experience with him, I now know there are thousands that have been introduced to "Louie's way" and will follow in his footsteps, becoming heroes.