Jonathan Stutts was only 15 when he lost his father to a malignant brain tumor.
Now 20, Stutts has found a way to help fund cancer research in the hopes that one day, no child will have to lose a parent to the disease.
Stutts, from the Foxcroft area, graduated in 2009 from Charlotte Country Day School, where he played baseball and basketball.
When deciding on a college, he vacillated between UNC Chapel Hill and Washington & Lee University in Lexington, Va. He wanted to go somewhere with strong academics as well as sports.
Digital Access for only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
"I was born and bred to go to Carolina, so that was hard to turn down," said Stutts.
But in the end, he chose Washington & Lee when they offered him a spot as shortstop on their baseball team, The Generals.
"I'll probably go to Carolina for grad school," said Stutts.
Stutts, now a rising junior, decided he wanted to raise money for cancer research in memory of his late father, Clyde L. Stutts II, during his sophomore year of college.
"When I was trying to figure out where to give the money to, I just thought of the Jimmy V Foundation," said Stutts. "I'd always been a big college basketball fan, so I'd seen his 1993 ESPY speech a bunch of times."
The speech, given by famed N.C. State University basketball coach Jim Valvano, announced the creation of the V Foundation for Cancer Research and inspired those watching with its motto: Don't give up, don't ever give up. Eight weeks later Valvano died from cancer, but his foundation has received more than $100 million, with all donations going toward cancer research grants.
Clyde L. Stutts II had the same kind of strength and humor Valvano exhibited in that 1993 speech.
"My dad always tried to play it off like it wasn't as bad as it was," said Stutts, smiling at the memory. "He was tough."
Unfortunately, the aggressive cancer was tougher. Glioblastoma multiforme, a rare form of cancer that attacks the brain, left Stutts' father with only a 5 percent chance of survival from the start.
He died nine months after diagnosis at age 58.
Stutts took on responsibility that most 15-year-olds don't have to worry about. He was the man of the house helping care for his mother and three siblings. That maturity no doubt made Stutts the self-starter he is today.
Through work and determination, Stutts was able to raise nearly $10,000 for the V Foundation this past baseball season.
He started by sending a letter to friends and family, asking for them to pledge money for the foundation based on the number of hits he made during the season. When friends on the baseball team found out, they also wanted to help with the cause.
Stutts re-drafted his letter, asking the donors to pledge based on the performance of the team or of an individual player. They could pledge based on strikeouts, hits, home runs or any other way they wanted. It encouraged people to follow the team while raising money for the cause.
At the end of the season, checks were sent to Stutts. He filed everything in a database, then informed the V Foundation that a large sum of money was on its way. He made the bulk of the donation May 20, the five-year anniversary of his father's death.
"I'm still getting donations, though," said Stutts. "We're at $9,600 as of right now. I expected to raise maybe $5,000. I never thought I'd raise this much money."
While it took a lot of time, Stutts is proud of his accomplishment and thankful for the support of friends and family in Charlotte. He doesn't expect to start another fundraiser for the V Foundation while in college, but he hopes that people will continue to support the cause by giving donations online at www.jimmyv.org.
"I'm just so happy and amazed," said Stutts. "Everyone tells me my dad would be proud."