Hope was what Dennis Lee Hundley wanted to create in the lives of students struggling with cancer, but his work came to a halt when cancer took his own
However, his mission now lives on with Iona Parks, a junior communication major, who met him last year after the Collegiate Times published an article on her personal battle with cancer.
After reading her story, Hundley approached Parks with his idea for creating an outreach program for Virginia Tech students dealing with cancer.
“Dennis contacted me through Facebook and said he saw my article and that he had cancer too,” Parks said.
Hundley, who battled Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a cancer of lymph tissue, felt an immediate bond with Parks, whose ovarian cancer is in remission.
Hundley and Parks became good friends as they worked to initiate the support group with Dean of Students Dean Brown. However, their efforts were put on hold when Hundley’s condition worsened.
In October, he was admitted to the hospital where he remained until December when he passed away.
Two days before his death, university administrators visited Mary Washington hospital, where he was being treated, to have a graduation ceremony and give him his diploma.
After Hundley’s death, friends and family reached out to Parks.
“I know people who were even closer with him had contacted me and were like ‘Dennis still wants this (support group) to happen,’” Parks said.
Michelle Colandro, a close friend of Dennis, understood how much the support group meant to him.
“I mean, I just know that he really wanted to start it and he and Iona had worked really hard to get things started,” Colandro said.
Parks followed their words and continued to take steps in Hundley’s honor.
This semester, Parks pledged Alpha Phi Omega, a service fraternity, and ran for pledge president. She was elected to the position and chose her pledge service project in memory of Hundley.
“I wanted to raise money to get a tree for him on campus. We did three days of bake sales and sold violet bracelets for Hodgkin’s lymphoma that say ‘We remember, Dennis Lee Hundley’,” Peters said.
Within three days, they raised $800 and will continue trying to raise money at today’s Relay for Life events.
“Hopefully, we’ll get a tree for him and the rest of the proceeds will go to Livestrong in his name,” Peters said.
The tree will not be Hundley’s only memorial; he will also be recognized during the dedication ceremony at Relay.