Profile of a Champion

JAVIER

“Sometimes life gives us the opportunity to witness greatness in people.  For me, that was Javier.  He listened when I needed someone to hear me, and he spoke up when I needed to hear someone.  He went above and beyond the duty of a friend and instead became my brother.”
This is just one snippet of so many testimonials about a true Champion, Javier Corradini.  Before passing from cancer in 2017, he touched lives in countless ways, both at home and as an instructor at the Columbia Horse Center.  To this day, people still comment on how he impacted them and brought them joy. His presence was unmistakable, his laughter unforgettable.


“Just him saying ‘Hello’ turned ugly or gloomy days to sunshine. He always made people feel like they mattered in this world no matter what.”  This common theme of how he impacted everyone he came in contact with and how special he made everyone feel runs throughout the memories of Javier.  He would be there with a hug to greet you, and he would offer his shoulder to cry on when you were going through hard times.  
And he would push students at the Center to be better versions of themselves— in riding and in their character. 


“He radiated a light and warmth that we crowded around, soaking up the sense of belonging and connection,” said Amelia, one of his students that still holds dear the lessons Javier taught her both inside and outside of the riding ring.  He encouraged them to cast fear aside and just dig in— it may have been in the context of learning a new riding skill, but it is a lesson that stuck with those lucky enough to have known him.  
“Live in the moment, love every moment, and spread the magic of laughter to all” said Carla when she thinks of Javier.  His laugh especially comes to mind when those who knew him think of his personality.  His wife, Cate, said “he had the best belly laugh.  Happy and genuine.  It’s my favorite thing to think of when I think of him… him with his daughters having fun and laughing.”  It’s that “salt-of-the-earth good” person Cate describes that keeps him here with us.  
The reflections on Javier’s life show how much he impacted others; how he lived for his family; and how his character above all made people want to be better versions of themselves.
That’s what keeps him here.  That’s what makes him a legend.  That’s what makes him a Champion we can always look up to!

Radhika

Through adversity, a new vision for life and a renewed romance can blossom. As Radhika Shah looks back at the struggle her family went through when her father, Montu, was diagnosed with colon cancer, she sees the many positives that came through those stressful and uncertain times.
In December of 2019, Radhika was a senior in high school, hopeful about enjoying her final school year before going to college, when the diagnosis shocked her family. A global pandemic quickly followed, upturning not only what she thought would be a fun year but also changing her path and perspective on life. She saw her father at near death during his treatment, and along with this came financial struggles with job loss and medical expenses. The pandemic meant not being able to be with her father in the hospital during treatment, either. But these challenges didn’t keep her or her family down. They relied on each other and gained a new appreciation for their relationships and giving back to others.
“Family and friends became the most important. We connected with a family friend involved in allopathic medicine who was a tremendous help throughout the process and healing journey.  We also were deliberate about spending quality time with each other on small trips we were able to take as a family together.  Just relaxing watching movies as a family took on a new special meaning for us, too.”
After being married for over 20 years, Radhika loved seeing a youthful romance blossom again between her father and mother.  
“My dad started taking my mom on dates. They’d go out a couple of times per month, and my dad was always rejuvenated and happy from those.”
While Montu continues treatment for the cancer, their regular date nights continue and the Shah family still lives with the hope that has propelled them in this journey. Radhika started college focusing on Chemical Engineering, but she quickly realized the experience over the previous year impacted her career desires. She is now focused on medicine, interested in drug treatments for cancer and helping families that are going through the struggles her family went through.  But even before she gets her degree, she invests time in the community. 
“Champions Against Cancer was a big help supporting me and my family, and I want to help others and make sure that no matter what the situation, it’s important to keep hope in your heart.”
Thank you for being an inspiration to us all, Radhika!

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CATE

“He looked at me one day when I was worried, and he said ‘when are you going to stop being so scared? Just do it. You don’t have a choice— we have two kids and you have to do it.’”​

When you’re a champion, you find the strength where you can, even on days where you think you can’t even bring yourself to get out of bed. Despite the loss of her husband Javier to cancer, Cate has found her strength in family and the memory and words of her husband.​

“Up until the end, he said you need to love each day like it’s your last. A lot of us don’t learn that until later in life. None of us are guaranteed tomorrow, so you need to make today count. I tell people not to bicker about the stupid little things. At the end it doesn’t matter, and fighting is a waste of time. Be happy and try to live a good day.”

Cate lives every day for their two beautiful daughters.

“They saved me. They got me through it and still save me to this day. For the kids, I have to talk about him. There’s a rainbow? That’s papa saying hi. I have to do it and carry it forward. I try to make my girls understand who their father was and to mold them into good people.”

This is Champions Against Cancer’s first “Profile of a Champion.” Our goal is to show others the strength of those that have dealt with cancer in their life, and Cate has been an inspiration to us and to those around her. She has learned a lot about herself and what she is capable of as she has powered on. “Being on my own for the first time in my entire life… old me would never have been able to do this. I’m independent now and can do anything on my own.”

When it comes to advice to others going through the same situation, she says that things will get easier with time. “It will get better. It takes a long time, but it gets better. Minute by minute, it gets better.”

You are a true champion, Cate!

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JAVIER

“Sometimes life gives us the opportunity to witness greatness in people.  For me, that was Javier.  He listened when I needed someone to hear me, and he spoke up when I needed to hear someone.  He went above and beyond the duty of a friend and instead became my brother.”
This is just one snippet of so many testimonials about a true Champion, Javier Corradini.  Before passing from cancer in 2017, he touched lives in countless ways, both at home and as an instructor at the Columbia Horse Center.  To this day, people still comment on how he impacted them and brought them joy. His presence was unmistakable, his laughter unforgettable.

“Just him saying ‘Hello’ turned ugly or gloomy days to sunshine. He always made people feel like they mattered in this world no matter what.”  This common theme of how he impacted everyone he came in contact with and how special he made everyone feel runs throughout the memories of Javier.  He would be there with a hug to greet you, and he would offer his shoulder to cry on when you were going through hard times.  
And he would push students at the Center to be better versions of themselves— in riding and in their character. 

“He radiated a light and warmth that we crowded around, soaking up the sense of belonging and connection,” said Amelia, one of his students that still holds dear the lessons Javier taught her both inside and outside of the riding ring.  He encouraged them to cast fear aside and just dig in— it may have been in the context of learning a new riding skill, but it is a lesson that stuck with those lucky enough to have known him.  
“Live in the moment, love every moment, and spread the magic of laughter to all” said Carla when she thinks of Javier.  His laugh especially comes to mind when those who knew him think of his personality.  His wife, Cate, said “he had the best belly laugh.  Happy and genuine.  It’s my favorite thing to think of when I think of him… him with his daughters having fun and laughing.”  It’s that “salt-of-the-earth good” person Cate describes that keeps him here with us.  
The reflections on Javier’s life show how much he impacted others; how he lived for his family; and how his character above all made people want to be better versions of themselves.
That’s what keeps him here.  That’s what makes him a legend.  That’s what makes him a Champion we can always look up to!

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The Gitelmans

“It’s really important to me on how we treat other people.  I stress with my kids more than anything— have integrity. Even when someone isn’t watching, you need to be your best yourself. Trying your best.  Putting in the effort. Being polite even though someone is different than you are.”
Amy values this type of character because her late husband demonstrated it in such a meaningful way to those around him, even during the hard struggles with cancer. “Jonathan was genuinely a good human. The lessons I want our children to take from him was how he treated people. Doing the right thing, behaving the right way even when you know it’s hard.”
Amy and Jonathan tackled life together with vigor and always kept a good sense of humor, no matter what the circumstances. “He was always positive and kept making jokes to keep our spirits up. You can’t sit and sulk in it. He lived the best life he could even when he was in pain in a hospital.”
They both knew bad things in life could happen and that this shouldn’t stop you from moving forward.  Amy also learned these lessons early in life from her father when she lost her mother when Amy was 12.
“I was married at 22, had a baby at 25 and another at 28, Jonathan was diagnosed when I was 35 and was gone by the time, I was 40. My parents showed me how to live again. Even if you have this wonderful life, you can have another one. You have a second chance. My dad had to do the same thing when my mom died. He showed you can find love again.”
Amy and the children are moving forward and living life to its fullest, and she is proud of how much she sees Jonathan living on in the kids— their daughter, Hannah, shows his hard work, perseverance, and determination. Their son, Lucas, carries on his father’s love of business and baseball. And more important than anything, they are respectful and genuinely good people. 
Inspired by Jonathan, his parents preserve his memory by sponsoring Champions Against Cancer’s “Sundays at the Park” Orioles event. Jonathan’s family remains an integral part of our lives.
A family of Champions, the Gitelmans show us how to take on life with an endless sense of hope, heart, and conviction.

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KRISTY

“We shared everything together.  He was a great partner.  He was a great husband.  He was my best friend.  If I did anything wrong, he would understand me and love me for who I was.” 
And it was their shared faith that provided Kristy and her husband, Johnson, with hope.  “Ultimately, we had peace in our minds that this life is not the end of us and that we have another life together with God.”  
In their last moments together, Kristy told Johnson that he gave her the two greatest presents in the world— their sons.  And as she looks back at the time during his fight against liver cancer, she remembers the happiness they found in living life, reading the Bible together every day, and raising their children. Seeing their young boys grow, watching Johnson play with their sons, doing what they could together… those moments are forever etched in her memory.  “The kids were a great joy for us.  They didn’t know how serious the situation was, since they were 2 and 4, but their innocence brought us immense joy.”  
Like so many in Kristy’s situation, her kids are the most influential people in her life.  “They are the ones that keep you going.  And my sons will carry my husband’s legacy in this world.”
Aside from her children, Kristy takes pride in the incredible work ethic that she and Johnson had in their marriage.  Johnson worked until he couldn’t walk and was a dedicated spouse that always helped with the housework.  Being together as they worked hard to provide for their family set a foundation for her ability to move forward. And despite the incredible challenges in raising children on her own since his passing, she is grateful for a loving sister who helps watch her sons during virtual learning and for the community awareness that Champions Against Cancer was able to provide.  “The help from CAC and the knowledge that there are other people out there in the same situation and getting through it was a great comfort to me.”
Still, life without her best friend and partner in life is hard.  Raising 2 young boys and taking care of the home without their father is hard.  But even with the pain still excruciatingly fresh, Kristy continues to work tirelessly every single day.  At work and at home, her strength and perseverance continue to shine.  Her whole mindset completely changed in how she tackles life, as she has shifted her approach to have immediate goals.  “I used to look at how to achieve things in 5 years or 10 years.  Now I am thinking just today.  I need to make sure we have something in life right now.” With this shift in mindset, Kristy’s focus has been on the simpler goals and joys.  “My family needs to have a happy day, one step at a time.  With the kids, I want to have fun with them and laugh with them.  I want to spend more time with them.  If we are happy and laugh today, then I’m thankful for that.  And I’m thankful to God every day that we are ok.”
Though life has changed for Kristy, what hasn’t changed is the bedrock foundation that faith has provided her and her family.  “My husband and I built faith together, our children have a strong faith foundation in their life, and I’m confident he is in paradise and I will see him again.”
Another story of strength.  Another inspiration.  Another champion.

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