Seth Darnell 1987-2007
Seth's radiant smile
in free fall
Seth's skydiving video.
Seth's big smile at touchdown!
Tandem instructor's logbook for Seth's jump.
2 Miles of Smiles
The vision for 2 Miles of Smiles started on Sept 3, 2006, when the founding director was visiting her husband, who was a tandem skydiving instructor at Skydive Dallas (now known as Skydive Spaceland). While visiting, she noticed a young man with a prosthetic leg that was going skydiving. She was drawn to this young man and wanted to know his story. She discovered his name was Seth Darnell, a cancer patient who had lost his right leg to osteosarcoma. He was celebrating his 18th birthday by going skydiving.
Seth was accompanied by his mentor and friend, Shannon Hart, for this celebration experience: The director watched a newfound excitement resonate through Seth as he climbed into the aircraft that would take him 13,500 (2 miles) in the sky, just to drop him out of the plane and sail back to earth. She watched as the plane ascended into the sky, and at various times the plane was not visible but when she listened closely, the engine could be heard high above in the sky so with a glance in that general direction the plane could be spotted.
When the call came over the announcement “jumpers 1 minute away”, she was fixated on the aircraft to watch as the jumpers came tumbling out. For 1 minute she was not sure which small dot in the sky was Seth and his tandem instructor, but once the parachutes starting opening she spotted him by the design on his parachute. She watched as they sailed through the sky making turns and finally getting ready for their final approach. As Seth came closer to the earth, he lifted his legs and they made a perfect stand up landing. Once Seth and his instructor were on the ground, you could see the exuberance and excitement on his face by the big smile he wore.
Once Seth was unlatched from the tandem instructor, you could hear several woo-hoos and yippies from him and his friend. Their excitement was contagious, and it wasn’t just from having fun, but a sense of accomplishment about jumping out of a perfectly good airplane and having such an incredible experience that he forgot about cancer, and was just enjoying life. After watching the empowerment he had just gained, the vision of what skydiving could do for other people affiliated with cancer emerged.
Throughout that day, the founding director had thoughts rushing into her mind about how skydiving could be used as a means to empower and strengthen people affiliated with cancer. It was so intense she knew the vision was coming from God and was given the opportunity to start a nonprofit to help those afflicted with cancer find strength through skydiving, providing courage to live life fearlessly before or after treatment.
The next time the director was at the drop zone, Seth was there for his 2nd tandem skydive. He had overcome a fear so great, he was willing to face it again. Sometimes in life, we must face fears over and over again, such as treatments with cancer, or reclaiming your life after treatments, but having the strength and empowerment to endure can get you through anything.
Unfortunately, Seth's cancer returned and he passed away in July 2007 at the age of 19, but God kept this idea on the director’s mind, which inspired her to create 2 Miles of Smiles to help those afflicted with cancer find newfound power that is our mission statement:
“Empowering cancer patients and survivors to find strength through skydiving, providing courage to live life fearlessly before, during or after treatment”.
Help Seth's Legacy Stay Alive by Donating Today.
Shannon's experience skydiving with Seth
My name is Shannon Hart, and I would like to tell you about the day I went skydiving with an inspiring young man named Seth; it would be one of the most memorable days of my life. As nervous as I was, Seth was so excited, he couldn’t believe he was going to be jumping out of a plane.
Since Seth had lost his right leg to osteosarcoma cancer and was wearing a prosthetic leg, his landing was going to be a little more challenging than normal. It was very heartwarming to see Seth and his tandem instructor, Ernie, discussing the landing while laughing and giggling.
As we started walking to the plane Seth tapped me on the shoulder and said "nervous?" I lied and said "no!" As we entered the plane I could see Seth energized by the thought of getting on that plane knowing he was going to be jumping out of it!
Before I knew it, I was hearing three words I’ll never forget, “It’s our turn!" As excited as Seth was, he insisted I go first. Even while having the thrill of his life Seth was thinking of others. As we were getting ready to exit the plane I remember looking back at Seth and seeing pure joy through his beaming smile.
The freefall was amazing. I had never experienced anything like it. Once my instructor Mark opened the canopy, I felt so much peace as we floated through the air, and saw different points of interest on the ground.
After I had a bit of a clumsy landing, I looked up to see Seth and Ernie make a flawless landing, prosthetic leg and all. The smile on Seth's face was beaming brighter than the sun, and it will forever be etched into my memory.
The final event of the day was a post skydive meal with Seth's family and friends in which we played the video of Seth's jump. We had so much fun watching the video over & over again and reliving our skydiving experience.
Despite our age difference, Seth taught me that day to enjoy every minute of life, and to soak it all in because you never know what life holds.
"If Seth was going to find a way to keep motivating people, it would be something like
jumping out of an airplane."
Seth returns to the basketball court
with his prosthetic leg.
The following story was posted on Wednesday, July 25, 2007
in The Fort Worth Star-Telegram:
SETH DARNELL 1987-2007
Athlete inspired even after an amputation
By MARK AGEE
Star-Telegram Staff Writer
Seth Darnell stepped onto a basketball court with a prosthetic leg for the first time two years ago.
The Azle High School crowd was on its feet during the junior varsity game as he scored five points, grabbed two rebounds and blocked a shot. But the moment they really went crazy was when he took charge. Friend and classmate Matt Summers doesn't remember which team won, but he said, "It was the greatest game I ever saw." Mr. Darnell's father agreed. "I had a hard time watching through the tears," said John Darnell, who was also the team's coach.
Seth Darnell died Saturday at a Fort Worth hospital after the bone cancer that took his left leg returned. He was 19.
That moment on the basketball court during Mr. Darnell's junior year was emblematic of the way he attacked life, friends and relatives said.
Mr. Darnell, a basketball player and track athlete, was diagnosed with cancer in his sophomore year in high school. He was sixth in his class academically before chemotherapy forced him to stay home and he fell in the rankings. He vowed to return to the top 10, his father said. He graduated ninth in his class at Azle in 2006.
He earned scholarships to Texas Christian University, though he was unable to attend because the cancer returned last summer. He wanted to study biomechanics and learn to research and design prosthetics, his family said.
"Everything he did, he excelled at it. He always did it with such passion," said his mother, Denise Darnell. "He made me a better person. He never wanted anyone to feel sorry for him."
Mr. Darnell made the decision himself to have his leg amputated, John Darnell said. He remained an athlete, learning to rock climb. He went skydiving twice. Mr. Darnell trained for the Paralympics and had hoped to compete in the Beijing 2008 games in track and field or swimming, which he had never competed in before the amputation. He needed to trim about 20 seconds off of his 100-meter time. "There was no doubt in my mind he could do it," John Darnell said. "This was a kid who stopped drinking carbonated drinks before the seventh grade to improve his conditioning," John Darnell said. "He was that dedicated to doing what it took to reach a goal. He was strong. ...You and I facing the situation probably would have died about six months into it. He made it a year."
Denise Darnell said her son had an "amazing story to tell."
"That's one of my regrets -- that he won't be able to tell it," she said.
Other survivors include his brother, Jared Darnell; grandparents, Robbie and Glenn Featherston and Jerry and Linda Pahal; aunts and uncles, Carol and Mike Roberts, David and Jan Darnell, and Robert Darnell.
Denise Darnell said her son had an "amazing story to tell." "That's one of my regrets -- that he won't be able to tell it," she said.
Denise was not aware in 2007 that her son was the inspiration for a nonprofit that would help others afflicted with cancer to live life to the fullest as Seth did. She can now gain comfort knowing that his amazing story will be told through 2 Miles of Smiles.
City of Azle's
Seth Darnell Day
Seth, an incredible young man by Randy Mask
Seth was 18 when he walked into my office with something on his mind, God. You see Seth was going to be meeting God in about 3-6 weeks, face to face, and I believe he knew it. Seth was in the last few weeks of terminal osteosarcoma cancer and he knew how fast the cancer was spreading; he had been told by his doctors that it was just a matter of time. So he had work to do and no time to waste.
Cancer was something Seth knew how to battle. He already had to choose to have his right leg amputated in the 10th grade when the cancer was first found. The doctors felt like the battle was won, but it had only just begun. After recovering from the amputation and returning to the love of his life - basketball, he was back on the court his Junior/Senior year hitting three-point baskets and taking charges on the court. Seth graduated 10th in his class, was chosen as Mr. AHS and voted as Most Giving by his classmates. Seth then set his sights on college and the Para-Olympics. But then the cancer returned. This time in his lung, and quickly to his ribs and finally to his spine. The doctors had told him that they would not be able to stop it.
Seth knew if we were going to make a difference we better get busy. The idea was to motivate a group of young people to come together and invest their time and energy into their community and their neighbors, to make their town a better place to live and to become better people in the process, to Serve. This group of young people was the Class of 2010. This class already had shown the ability to come together and to do some amazing things when they combined their resources for a common cause. Their first cause was their classmate and friend Chris Anderson who had Cystic Fibrosis and needed $78,000 for a lung transplant. The future class of 2010 rallied the community together to raise 10‘s of thousands of dollars to make this possible (please see below “Chris Anderson - an amazing young man, part of God‘s plan”). Even the local TV stations were covering this effort. Seth saw what this class did and was a part of it because his little brother Jared was a classmate and friend of Chris. This was the group of young people that Seth had in mind.
Behind Seth’s inspiration - 2010 United was formed with the goal of - Give Something Back, Make a Difference for Somebody Else. Together We Can Make Our Community Better. Initially, the group started with 7 members, then the next week 16, then 24, and then 31.
In the last 4 weeks of Seth’s life, he spent every available moment bringing this group together. He would even reschedule his chemotherapy treatments because they conflicted with 2010 United meeting times. Seth told me “chemo won’t make a difference, but this will." During this time Seth had lost the use of his good leg because the cancer had spread to his spine causing his vertebra to collapse onto the spinal cord. He could no longer feel his good leg so he started using a wheelchair, but it didn’t slow him down and his smile only got wider.
Even the night he took his last trip to the hospital in obvious distress, Seth would not go to bed until he had completed all 2010 United’s paperwork from the last meeting. “Mom, I’m not going to bed before I finish the minutes or Dr. Mask will be lost at the next meeting.”
Seth spent his last 3 days surrounded by friends and family and when God took Seth home just four weeks after he started 2010 United, over 40 members of the Sophomore Class had come together to carry on the message. Seth started the ball rolling, and he planted the seed to make a difference in other people's lives. From that point, 2010 United continued to grow with over 100 members.
Together this group performed community service projects like clearing brush in the new Central Park, had booths at the Spring Fling, and held Neighbors Night Out and Jumping Jack Jamborees. Their service also extended to participation in Homecoming and Sting Fling Parades, food drives, assisted at convocation, held parties for the Junior High students and even painted the inside of the old weight room in the High School.
In the two years since Seth and this Class formed 2010 United. This group has given over 3000 total man-hours back to their community and touched the hearts of many of its citizens. This class has now graduated, the Class of 2010. Every one of us involved with 2010 United will carry something on in our lives that we learned from Seth. We are grateful for his sacrifices to us and to Azle. This is why the City of Azle proclaimed Seth Darnell day, a day to recognize those that serve our community.
What inspires a 19 year old man to give his last 4 weeks to you and me? Only God has that power! I feel like Seth was an angel sent to show us the way, that only giving and serving your fellow brothers and sisters makes you complete in your spirit and that makes God smile. Everybody who witnessed Seth’s smile saw it get wider as the days ticked away. And even as he lost the use of his only leg, he didn’t seem to miss it much because I think God gave him angel wings; you just couldn’t see them because they were invisible.