MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - The Montgomery Metro Relay for Life is set for this Friday and hundreds of folks from all walks of life will join forces in the fight against cancer. If all goes as planned, there will be a familiar face in that crowd; one who has dedicated his life to community service and who is now receiving the benifits of that service.
Hank Schmitt, who spent years working for the United Way, was diagnosed with congestive heart failure and given only months to live. He's not letting it keep him from his passion to help others, however. "People saying 'You're so brave'...with this terminal illness," Schmitt said before scratching his head, "No, I'm not. I'm trusting God."
It was August 5th, 2008 when doctors gave him six months to live. "I've outlived some predictions." Nearly nine months later he's still fighting the disease. "I hate cancer," he explained. "I don't use that word hate a lot."
The disease claimed the life of his mother, his father and many other important people in his life. Many others are just like him. "You'll stand on a street corner," he visualized, "and you'll only be that for about three minutes before you'll find someone who's been affected by cancer. They affect the entire family and the entire family needs support."
Cancer patients and their families often find that support through the American Cancer Society's programs, which wouldn't be possible without Relay for Life. "This is important to our community," Schmitt said. "I can't think of too many other things that cut across every swath of demographics...than cancer."
For years Schmitt volunteered at Relay for Life, and this year the American Cancer Society chose him as the Honorary Chair of the event. "I was absolutely astounded," he remembers when he heard the news.
While he can no longer drive, and depends on oxygen to survive, Schmitt is determined not to miss this year's relay. He says good Lord willing he'll be there. "If I have to crawl, I will be there."
He's a man who has given so much to his community and will continue to give until the very end. "I was counting up the other night the number of people that I've known in my life who have been taken by this loathsome thing," he lamented. "It's important that we as a community honor both those who have passed on, and those who are fighting."