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College student who raises funds for cancer to be honored

Article by Dean Shalhoup Published in the Nashua Telegraph - May 31, 2008

These days, Justin Stanton laughs when he tells the story of how he and a bunch of friends at Bishop Guertin High School "went underground," after school officials told them their newly conceived project wasn't an acceptable school activity. They sought out sympathetic teachers who secretly looked the other way so they could conduct their business. At lunchtime they infiltrated the crowded cafeteria, even recruiting friendly janitors willing to work in the shadows for the cause.

Now stop shaking, all you parents and teachers - it's not what you think.

Stanton, finishing his second year at Bentley College, described it best in a written outline of how his project began and why it went underground: "We secretly approached teachers who allowed us to quietly talk about our project and why it was so important to raise money for cancer."
And the janitors' role? "We made a deal with the janitors . . . who secretly sold our custom-made cancer wristbands during lunch without anybody finding out."

Still weeks away from turning 20, Justin Allen Stanton is a seasoned, go-getting businessman and philanthropist with a knack for "getting it done." His trademark endeavor - raising funds for cancer research - has been astoundingly successful since its rather shaky beginnings in the nooks and crannies of Bishop Guertin nearly three and a half years ago.

So successful, in fact, that Stanton, who also runs his own landscaping business and studies year-round so he can graduate from Bentley early, has been selected as one of five movers and shakers in the cancer research world to receive special recognition from the Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center at a $500-a-plate dinner next week.

The dinner kicks off the Cancer Center's new initiative, called The One Hundred, an elite club into which 100 hospital benefactors will be inducted each year. While each will be recognized, organizers choose several outstanding benefactors whose stories will be told on giant screens for all to see.

Stanton is among this year's elite five; the other four are distinguished physicians.

This is Mass. General, mind you - one of the best, if not the best, cancer research and treatment facilities in the world. In three short years, Stanton has earned the right to rub elbows with some of the nation's most moneyed and storied personalities and celebrities.

Stanton says it's the memories of his late father, Kenneth, that have fueled his inspiration and determination.

Dr. Ken Stanton was a dentist, but spent most of his adult life as a medical patient. Diagnosed with bone cancer in early 1988, Ken Stanton lay in Mass. General awaiting surgery to amputate a cancerous leg - a "hemipelvectomy" in medical speak - while his wife and fellow dentist, Ann Vermette, sat in a Nashua hospital preparing to give birth to their son, Justin.

Soon after his surgery, Ken Stanton's cancer returned and hit his lungs. Another operation was followed by radiation and chemotherapy. Stanton wasn't about to give up, though, even after doctors found a brain tumor in 1991.

"Growing up, seeing my father undergo regular medical treatments was just a normal routine for me," Justin Stanton said. "Fact is, I really didn't know any other way."

Ken Stanton's battle ended in January 2005. He was just 48. But for every ending, as they say, there's a beginning - and what a beginning it was.

Less than two months after losing his father, Justin Stanton, a Boy Scout who was ready to choose his Eagle Scout project, announced that he was starting the Kenneth Stanton Osteosarcoma Research Fund at Mass. General and his first undertaking would be a walk-a-thon fundraiser that summer.

His proposal and ambitious goal - $10,000 - worried the Eagle Scout board, his mom remembers.
"They told him the goal was too high and that scouts usually clean up parks or build newsstands," Vermette said. "But Justin was determined, so they gave him the OK."

The walk-a-thon, combined with the proceeds of "One Step Closer to a Cure" wristbands that Stanton created and sold by the thousands, with help from several friends and younger sister Tiffany, raised a whopping $30,000 that first year.

"Quite the feat for a 16-year-old kid," his mom adds.

In 2006, the walk-a-thon turned into a golf tournament, and wristband sales continued. "I figured a lot of people with money play golf and a tournament would raise lots more than a walk-a-thon," Stanton said.
He even convinced Mass. General president, Dr. Peter Slavin, that he and other physicians should play. Once again, he had the golden touch - the tourney and wristband sales raised $50,000 for the hospital's cancer research programs in 2007.

In remarks he plans to make at the dinner, Stanton liberally praises the Mass. General community.
"I'm so grateful my dad was treated at the Cancer Center," he wrote. "They . . . provide patients and their families with hope.

"In my case, the Cancer Center allowed me the opportunity to grow up with my father, for us to have each other for the first 16 years of my life."