Pediatric Cancer Activist Dead at 20
Houston Chronicle Article
Ragan, who was diagnosed with bone cancer at 13 while competing in a tennis tournament in Italy, succumbed to the disease at his parents’ home in Corpus Christi after years of defying the odds. He withdrew from Rice University a few weeks ago after the disease took a turn for the worse.
“He was a special kid,” said Dr. Ronald DePinho, president of M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, where Ragan was treated. “He took an unfortunate experience and converted it into positive action that inspired a lot of people to get behind his efforts to raise awareness about pediatric cancer.”
Ragan co-founded Triumph Over Kid Cancer Foundation not long after his diagnosis. The foundation, which grew out of a 2007 toga-themed birthday party where he asked friends and family to donate to childhood cancer, has raised $1.6 million to date. It has given $1.2 million of $1.5 million pledged to M.D. Anderson as part of a matching program to fund pediatric bone cancer research.
Beyond the fundraising, Ragan became a visible reminder of cancer’s pediatric toll, taking every opportunity to promote the need for more research and the fact that for all the money the U.S. pours into studying the disease, very little concerns its youngest victims. He said he was trying to make the most of his life but figured his best hope was that his efforts “help save the next guys.”
In 2012, Ragan took his cause to the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas, the state’s $3 billion assault on the disease. Challenging the agency’s governing board to better fund research into pediatric cancers “without big markets,” he asked members to remember his face, “the face of every Texan who dies from unprofitable pediatric cancer.”
After his diagnosis, Ragan still succeeded academically and athletically. He was salutatorian of his high school senior class, then a member of Rice’s golf team before the disease ultimately forced him to retire his sophomore year.
Ragan is survived by his parents, Jim and Gloria, and his sister Mecklin, a 2013 graduate of Rice and co-founder of Triumph Over Kid Cancer Foundation. In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be made to the foundation.