Todd Blake’s graduation from the College’s Online Business Program—with a perfect 4.0 GPA— while battling stage 4 Hodgkin lymphoma has inspired the Gator Nation. We caught up with Todd to see how he’s handled the media attention and how his story has touched the lives of so many.
Q: You’ve appeared on The Today Show. You’ve been featured in the Huffington Post, the Washington Times and many other newspapers. How have you handled all the media attention?
Todd: I think it’s been great. I’m glad to have the opportunity to be able to tell my story, to hopefully inspire others, whether they have cancer or not. And I think that’s proven to be very true. I’ve had a lot of people reach out to me and tell me the story has inspired them in some way, whether they’re going through health problems or they needed motivation with schooling or whatever the situation was. I thought I was going to have a little bit of time to relax after I graduated, but it didn’t really turn out that way.
Q: Was the media attention more than you expected?
Todd: It definitely blew up more than I expected, yeah. Initially I was just reaching out to my advisor, my professors, a few people. And when the UF Media department got a hold of it…it just kind of took off. I was hopeful that it could be one of those stories that got shared and people got inspired by.
Q: What was it like to be flown to New York and featured on The Today Show?
Todd: It was awesome. It was really nice to travel and be treated like a celebrity a little bit. The car service, the hotel and everything paid for. We were able to enjoy that little bit of time there and just soak it up.
Q: Have others who are battling cancer reached out to you and shared their own stories as a result?
Todd: I had easily 100 emails and messages on Facebook and Tweets and all sorts of things of people’s personal stories and letters, I’ve gotten a lot of treatment recommendations. I really spent the whole week after graduation just responding to all of these people. And to either give them encouragement or support…I spent a lot of time trying to answer all of those individually and, and really provide them with whatever it was they were looking for. Whether it was support or information about our foundation or just health-related things.
Q: Did you respond to all of them? We’re talking more than 100 emails?
Todd: Oh yeah, definitely. There was a full eight-hour day of just communications—emails, social media.
Q: That is a lot.
Todd: Yeah, it kind of made you feel a little bit like a celebrity. It was a little overwhelming, which is kind of a cool feeling I guess. It affected people on a deep level. It was nice to get that feedback and just know that I’m doing the right thing.
Q: Do you have any news or updates on the Live for Today Foundation?
Todd: Since going on the Today Show, I think we’re now over $17,000. That’s our biggest influx of fundraising since we got started without a doubt. So that’s been wonderful.
Q: Millions of people have heard and read your story through newspapers and the Today Show. What is the one thing you want them to remember and take away?
Todd: I want them to take away that essentially being positive and not giving up is the most important message that I can pass on in what I’ve gone through. Whether it’s school or career or work, the only way that you’re going to be able to get through those things is if you’re passionate about something. Live for Today is something that I’m very passionate about. Helping young adults with cancer to find hope, support, and be encouraged through their treatments I think is a very valuable and worthy cause. And so in order to make that happen, we have to be able to grow and I would just hope that the alumni base would support something like this. I think the Gator Nation supports their entrepreneurs and wants to see them be successful in the long run.