Person of the Week: Jimmy V volunteer

August 14, 2009 11:50:39 AM PDT
On Sunday, the 16th annual Jimmy V Celebrity Golf Classic for cancer research takes place at NC State's brand new Lonnie Poole golf course on the Centennial campus.It's the signature event for the V Foundation, and it wouldn't happen without the hundreds of volunteers who return every year to help.

One of them is the Eyewitness News Person of the week.

David Ingraham of Cary loves to share his love of sports with young people - especially kids like Desmond who share something else with him: a lost limb.

Ingraham's leg was amputated when he was just 12-years-old. It was his only hope to survive a rare childhood cancer.

"I remember saying to the doctor, the assistant doctor, who I'm still friends with today, 'Um,' I said. 'So, what's the garbage man going to say when he sees that leg in the garbage pail?' And it broke the ice. Everybody didn't know whether to laugh or not, and I was joking because it is what it is."

Ingraham says his sense of humor helped him handle both the cancer and the amputation. So did a prize fighter from his hometown in upstate New York. Boxing champion Floyd Patterson encouraged Ingraham when he was down.

"I do get emotional, so bare with me. He said, 'I've been knocked down more than any boxer in the history of boxing, but I've never been knocked out. So that must mean I've gotten up more than any boxer in the history of boxing.' And with that, he walked out of my room - point taken, message got," said Ingraham.

Patterson became Ingraham's mentor - teaching him to pay it forward.

It's something he does each year for a cancer-fighting group started by another famous sports figure: the late NC State men's basketball coach Jim Valvano. In fact, Ingraham's volunteer work earned him the V Foundation Award.

"At the volunteer party when they actually gave me the award and I got up and spoke. Again, you can see how emotional I am. I cried at that and I remember saying to Pam, 'I'm sorry, I apologize for crying, I don't mean to give that image.' She goes, 'No no no, that's perfect, because that's what Jim was. Jim cried, he laughed."

Ingraham not only volunteers for the V foundation, he spends time helping new amputee patients at Duke.

And he loves coaching kids like Desmond in the junior Paralympics - showing them their potential.

Ingraham says all his volunteer work is fulfilling, but with the V Foundation, it's about more than finding a cure for cancer. He finds fellowship with a family that - despite its fame - is very real, and cares about everyone touched by a devastating disease.

"When you meet people like that, you don't want to not be involved somehow, some way, somewhere and it's worked out exceptionally well for both them and for the volunteers that are involved and those that do get involved. I haven't met one who hasn't been thrilled, excited, can't wait until next year."

Click here for more about the V Foundation and the Golf Classic

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