By Julie Fitz-Gerald
“His positive outlook on life and persistence to keep living still inspires many to this day.”
“Miracles happen every day–why not me?” was First Lieutenant William Josh Powell’s motto during his two year battle with synovial sarcoma, a rare and deadly cancer that grows in connective tissues. Being a First Lieutenant, army ranger, and former quarterback for the United States Military Academy at West Point, Powell battled hard and inspired many on his journey.
At the young age of 27, only one month after marrying the love of his life, Fabi Powell, Josh passed away. However, Josh never stopped living life to the fullest during his battle with cancer. He always had hope and always dreamed of the future. The adversities he faced as a child through bullying and from his parent’s divorce, set him up with a positive mindset to persevere.
Josh inspired many by his commitment to looking forward and not letting his prognosis stop him. He filled up six journals with plans for his future. He hoped to build a home with his wife, write a book, achieve different goals on his bucket list, and so much more. He was focused entirely on hope and he never stopped praying for a miracle.
His positive outlook on life and persistence to keep living still inspires many to this day. His legacy lives through the Josh Powell Foundation (JPF) which was founded by his wife four months after his death. The foundation aims to provide motivational and practical support to those who are battling synovial sarcoma. The foundation, based out of Nashville, Tennessee, has a clear mission: “Inspiring the world — one battle at a time.”
Josh relied on a few key items during his battle with cancer. As a result, his wife Fabi created “Powell-Packs” that are full of items to encourage and support current cancer patients. These packs include a leather journal, a warm beanie hat, wristbands that say “Keep Going,” a water bottle, a car magnet to support awareness, hand sanitizer, and a mask. Since the foundation started, 1000 Powell-Packs have been given to patients at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas, and H.Lee Moffitt Cancer Center & Research Institute in Tampa, Florida.
But the foundation does not stop there. One of the patients that Fabi met was a young boy named Leo. When Leo received the Powell-Pack, he asked if JPF could sponsor his baseball team so that he could play. Of course, Fabi agreed. From there, JPF also provided Leo with a signed jersey from “Chipper” Jones of the Atlanta Braves and arranged for Leo to throw the first pitch at a university game.
Leo had something to look forward to and it inspired him to keep moving forward with hope. Leo’s mother eventually thanked Fabi for giving her an extra year with her son because baseball kept him going. Leo and Josh had been diagnosed the same month and their birthdays were both in September. Similarly, they both passed in the month of December. Leo hit close to home for Fabi as the similarities between Leo and Josh felt like a message from above. To honor Leo, the bucket list program was born.
When Josh’s former doctor reaches out to Fabi letting her know of a new patient whose cancer has spread, she launches a fundraiser specific to that patient’s bucket list. The goal is to be able to help as many patients as possible tick off their bucket list goals. It is always incredibly urgent. Fabi had a case where a 20-year-old’s leg had just been amputated and his only wish was to go fishing with his family. She got the call on a Thursday and he passed away on the following Saturday. As a result, she is always working as fast as possible to get everything set up because you never know how much time is left for each cancer patient.
On top of the Powell-Packs and the bucket-list program, the Josh Powell Foundation also maintains a positive social media presence. Understandably, many of the online groups for synovial sarcoma are dark and negative, but JPF wants to change that. JPF blasts as much positivity, optimism, and hope as possible. The foundation is truly a reflection of Josh Powell’s grace and hopeful attitude when faced with adversity.
Before Josh Powell passed away, he and his wife Fabi travelled to New York City’s 9/11 memorial to pay tribute to the victims of the 9/11 attack. As they were honoring the fallen, Josh’s eyes landed on the name, Shane Edward Powell, a fallen firefighter from Company 207. With Josh’s wife beside him, he spoke Shane’s name out loud for everyone around him to hear. He did this as a tribute to Shane for it is said, “You are never forgotten until someone says your name for the last time.” Through Josh Powell’s incredible foundation, Shane’s name will now always be remembered and never forgotten along with every other cancer fighter that Fabi has been able to honour with the Josh Powell Foundation.
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