20-Year-Old With Terminal Cancer Donates New Gym To High School
He's making a difference while he still has time – and inspiring others in the process.
When students at Life School Oak Cliff filed into their school's auditorium last Thursday, they weren't sure what was going on.
After they were seated, the students were joined by a familiar face via a video conference call. It was Eric Erdman, a guest speaker from Millersburg, PA who had visited the school in January to take a tour and talk to the students about a topic he knows a lot about: perseverance.
Erdman was diagnosed with a terminal form of brain cancer in 2016. When the Make-A-Wish foundation contacted him and invited him to choose a "wish," he decided to use the opportunity to help others.
Instead of taking a trip to Disney World like lots of other kids, Erdman started a charity organization called Give a Child a Voice to encourage children to speak out when faced with hard circumstances. Erdman hopes that by empowering young people to have a voice, he can help put an end to bullying, child abuse and life-threatening childhood illnesses.
"We must raise our voices to help the many boys and girls who are suffering in silence today, so they may become the author of their story, like I have become the author of mine," Erdman says on the Give a Child a Voice website.
When Erdman was in high school, he was a victim of bullying and child abuse. He often found comfort in going to his school's gym. With his foundation, Erdman was able to remodel his own school's fitness center to provide other students with a safe space to build their physical and mental strength.
He loved the project so much that he decided to hold a giveaway. He invited schools all over the country to send videos and photos explaining why they should get a new fitness center. After going through dozens of submissions, Erdman made his decision.
Erdman paid to remodel his own high school's fitness center. Give a Child a Voice/Facebook
When Erdman announced that Life High School Oak Cliff was the winner of the contest, the students jumped from their seats and cheered.
They rushed to hug their teacher, Megan Stinson, who nominated the school.
Students at Life High School Oak Cliff were overjoyed when they heard they won the contest. Give a Child a Voice/Facebook
"We've had caregivers pass away, we've also had three students of our own that have unfortunately passed away prior to graduation," Stinson told CBS-11.
While Erdman says that all of the schools who applied for the contest were deserving, he thought that Life High School would benefit the most.
The school has suffered the loss of a handful of students over the past few years due to suicide and violence. Their weight room is small and cramped, and they compensate for not having a gym by using a building across the street for school assemblies.
"These are definitely my babies," Stinson said after the announcement. "I'm so excited for what it means for these kids."
As for the students, it seems that Erdman's message is already catching on.
"It teaches us to not forget where we came from and give back to our community," Senior Jessika Howard said after she found out her school won the contest. "To always remember that we can always make an impact big or small, and that is what Eric showed us today.