SIOUX FALLS, SD (KELO) — A Poinsett Lake man has faced many challenges in his life. From childhood cancer to the unexpected loss of his loved ones. Now he helps others with their own challenges.
Ty Eschenbaum is a survivor. At the age of 15 he was diagnosed with leukemia. He spent his high school years in and out of hospitals.
He beat cancer back, but years of complications and chemotherapy took their toll.
“I was the pretty typical all-American kid, if you will, exercise and go to school just went completely blind with cancer and battled that and, because of the side effects, lost the ability to exercise. I missed most of the balls and homecomings and never set foot on a soccer field or basketball court again,” said Eschenbaum.
When Ty was sick, he developed friendships with other kids going through similar battles. He attended their funerals and realized he was the only one left. That’s part of what led him to start The Ty Eschenbaum Foundation 11 years ago.
It supports Make-a-Wish, helps young cancer survivors with scholarships, and funds missionary work in honor of his brother who passed away last year. He also made a promise after his girlfriend Autumn died of a blood clot in 2019.
“I vowed to do at least one Make-a-Wish, forever adopt one Make-a-Wish in her honor, and that’s backed by a life insurance policy on me,” Eschenbaum said.
Ty is ramping up his fundraising next month with the first-ever “Earn the Gift Gala.” The fact that he is still alive feels like a gift.
“And that’s my message when I talk to a lot of kids at school: You’re supposed to do your very best with the gifts you’ve been given,” Eschenbaum said.
The optional black tie event with food, auctions and entertainment is co-hosted by one of Ty’s Make-a-Wish friends, Koen.
“We were co-emcees last summer at their Evening of Inspiration, their golf tournament at the country club, so we got to co-emcee that and spent the whole day with Make-a-Wish kids and we had a blast. aren’t we Koen?
Koen: Mmm hmm.
Tom Hanson: Koen, tell us about your wish and how it went.
“It was a surprise how it looked when I got there,” says Koen.
Koen’s wish transformed the waiting room at Avera Specialty Pediatrics into his own farm kingdom.
They have so far signed up 500 guests for the event and more tickets are available.
The Earn the Gift Gala will take place December 3rd at the Swiftell Center in Brookings. Next year, Eschenbaum plans to expand the event to Sioux Falls