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  • Writer's pictureSharon Bina

The life of Seth Darnell is characterized by his signature smile and unwavering determination.

The following as been copied from an article written in the Tri-County Reporter (formally the Azle News) regarding our virtual celebration of Seth Darnell and how he lived his life with a spirt of adventure and purpose.


2 Miles of Smiles Former Azle student remembered by family and friends during online event ZACH FREEMAN azlereporter@ tricountyreporter.com


Seth Darnell remembered through on line event
Azle Student Remembered

From July 17 to July 21, the “2 Miles of Smiles” Facebook page will be hosting a virtual celebration of the life of Azle High School graduate, Seth Darnell. Darnell, who passed away in 2007 after his second battle with osteosarcoma, started the group 2010 United with his mentor Dr. Randy Mask in Azle.


2010 United was largely composed of the graduating class of Seth’s younger brother, Jared and Jared’s classmate, Chris Anderson. Anderson suffered from cystic fibrosis and had received a double lung transplant in the seventh grade. Anderson’s class helped raise $80,000 for the surgery. The support that Anderson received was what gave Seth, six Azle High School Sophomores and Dr. Mask the idea for 2010 United. Sadly, Anderson would pass away in 2009, not long after Seth, from his disease.


“Seth was a motivator,” Dr. Mask said. “Even when his cancer had returned and became incurable, he never let it deter him from focusing on leaving a life led by example… I am grateful for the time we had together and to have been a small part of Seth’s life and his selfless acts and the lasting impact he has made on the people around us.”



From just seven members, the organization quickly grew to over 100. Within two years of its formation, 2010 United had logged over 3,000 community service hours. Members repainted the inside of the old weight room at Azle High School, held food drives, cleared brush at Azle Central Park and participated in a wide range of community functions, events and charitable causes.


In 2008, Azle City Council and former Mayor Russ Braudis proclaimed the first annual Seth Darnell Day on June 21. In the past, Seth Darnell Day was celebrated at Azle’s Central Park and Shady Grove Park with police, city employees, students, family and others attending to share their memories of Seth and to celebrate his life. With Dr. Mask now spending his summers in Europe and Seth’s parents living in Arkansas, this year’s celebration will be held on Facebook. July 21, the last day of the celebration, will mark 16 years since Seth’s passing.


Sharon Bina, who runs the nonprofit 2 Miles of Smiles, was inspired by Seth Darnell when she saw him skydive in 2006. “He was a remarkable young man,” Bina said. “Unfortunately, I never met him. I was at the drop zone the day he was skydiving and seeing him just sparked a vision.”


In 2019, Bina reached out to Seth’s parents with the goal of creating an organization that provides free skydiving sessions to cancer patients and survivors. “God kept the seed planted in my mind for 13 years,” Bina said. “When I retired and was at the point in my life that I could focus on running a non-profit that’s when I started down the path of creating the 501c3. I got in contact with Dr. Randy Mask first and he put me in contact with Seth’s parents. They all gave me their blessing to use it as Seth’s legacy. I wouldn’t have gotten the idea on my own, it was really just from watching his skydive and the joy he had. That day, even though he knew he was terminal and had a prosthetic leg, he was still living an adventurous life and he wasn’t going to let that hold him back.”


The name 2 Miles of Smiles was inspired by both the distance skydivers fall and the signature smile Seth had on his face as he landed. Since its inception, the non-profit has dropped over 100 people from over 10,000 feet in the air.


Since Bina met Seth’s parents in 2019, raising money for 2 Miles of Smiles has become a central feature in the celebration of Seth Darnell Day.


“I think she was more nervous about it than we were,” Denise Darnell, Seth’s mother said of their first conversation with Bina. “When we got the phone call, we just felt nothing but joy. Anytime we can talk about Seth, we love it. We love the fact that he’s remembered.”


Darnell and her husband John were both Azle residents and teachers at Azle High School until 2015. “Seth battled cancer twice in Azle and we couldn’t have asked for a better community,” Darnell said. “We couldn’t have asked for people to be any better or any more supportive and just wrapping their arms around our family. For Azle to do that and for Dr. Mask to step up and do that, it’s incredible. Azle is a big part of who Seth was.”


The Darnells also described how Superintendent Todd Smith, who was an assistant principal of AHS at the time, spoke at Seth’s funeral and how Azle ISD staff were always supportive and helpful, picking up Seth’s younger brother when the parents couldn’t leave the hospital. “Seth had a one-of-a-kind smile that no matter what was going on, even during some of his hardest times, gave a feeling of peace and joy,” Todd Smith said. “His smile is one that would definitely brighten a day… I will never forget the night Azle defeated Crowley (at Mansfield) to advance to the regional tournament. It was a special night for the Azle basketball team and Azle HS, but it was even more special for Seth and his family. The basketball team carried Seth out onto the court and lifted him up so that he could take part in the net cutting ceremony. Seth had been a true inspiration to the team that year and they wanted to be sure he was a part of the celebration.”


In his senior year of high school, Seth was voted Mr. AHS and Most Giving. “The students at Azle High School were amazing too,” Mrs. Darnell said. “He was friendly towards everyone. There was not a group or a clique that he didn’t connect with.”


Even though they now live in Arkansas, the Darnells are still visited by their AHS coworkers and friends of Seth every year. Sgt. Chance Kidd, for example, is an Azle police officer who regularly makes visits to Seth’s parents. “He’s coming down next Thursday,” Darnell said. “He hasn’t missed a year.”


Seth’s parents, friends and loved ones are excited to share their photos, videos, and stories on 2 Miles of Smiles’ Facebook this year and to help keep Seth’s legacy alive.


“Someone made arrangements for Seth to skydive for free,” Seth’s father, John Darnell said. “Through Seth it’s continuing, and I think that’s pretty cool…When you jump out of a plane and you land, it’s hard to describe that feeling of accomplishment, that you overcame one of the greatest fears that there is. It’s a little unnerving at first but when you accomplish it, it’s like ‘if I did that then what else can I do?’ And it helps in the attitude of fighting cancer, I think. That’s one thing Seth had, a not-give-up attitude. He inspired us to have that attitude too.”


Since moving, the Darnells have become involved in a ministry called “While We’re Waiting” for parents who have lost children. Seth is buried in Arkansas and his parents often make visits to his gravesite, including during this week’s celebration.


“Wherever we go, he goes,” John Darnell said. “The last thing I told him was ‘I’m not going to say goodbye, I’m going to see you later.’ He never felt sorry for himself. I think that’s what helped him. In his mind, in order to not dwell on it, he went outward. He was an inspiration. His courage was the kind to make you say, ‘when I grow up, I wish I could have his courage.’ It was amazing how he looked death in the face.”


John Darnell told the story of how Seth and his best friend, Matt Summers, created a bucket list while having dinner with his family at the Chili’s in White Settlement. “The first thing on it is he wants to get in a high-speed police chase,” John Darnell said. Denise Darnell added, “they were just being crazy, he had us laughing. Instead of getting down and depressed he turned it into a positive.”


Despite being terminally ill, Seth dedicated his last month of life to helping his community. The day before being hospitalized for the last time, Seth decided to forego a blood transfusion and instead attend a 2010 United meeting. “That was just Seth,” Denise Darnell said. “Seth was a driven, goal-oriented person. When he’d get something going like that, he’d just do his best in it. That’s just who he was. I don’t think it surprised either of us at all.” Seth had told his mentor, Dr. Mask, that, “chemo won’t make a difference, but (2010 United) will.


During this period of remembrance of Seth’s life, Sharon Bina has also asked past 2 Miles of Smiles skydivers to post their pictures and videos of their experience and give a heavenly thank you to Seth. More information can be found at www. facebook.com/2MilesofSmiles where Seth’s loved ones will be celebrating in his life all week.

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