Slye making time this spring to raise funds for cancer research

BLACKSBURG – Time is a precious commodity among student-athletes, with practices, lifting sessions, film study and course work consuming the overwhelming part of their day.

Joey Slye, a kicker on the Virginia Tech football team, is no different in that respect. Yet he refuses to complain or use the lack of time as an excuse for dodging something of importance.

His latest off-field charitable endeavor involves participating in The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s “Man & Woman of the Year” competition in which candidates for the honor raise money for LLS blood cancer research. Each dollar raised over a 10-week period from March 12-May 20 counts as a vote, and the man and woman with the most votes wins the competition. The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society – LLS, for short – announces the winners May 20.

Slye’s candidacy came about after Tony Peay, a Virginia Tech graduate (Class of 1981) and a current executive vice president and chief banking officer at Union Bank & Trust in Richmond, approached Slye about being a candidate. Peay works directly with LLS as a representative.

“Tony’s mom passed away from multiple myeloma [a type of blood cancer], so this is pretty special to him,” Slye said. “He saw my ability to reach a lot of Hokie Nation in a way that he might not be able to if he had run. So they nominated me in December, and we started going through the campaign and looking at what we could do.”

Slye’s willingness to participate comes as no surprise to those who know his story, as Slye, too, has been affected by cancer. His older brother, A.J., passed away from leukemia in 2014 while at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee. Twenty years old at the time, A.J.’s passing marked the end of a heroic 14-month battle.

Slye, a rising senior from Stafford, Virginia, and his family formed a foundation in A.J.’s honor to raise money and awareness for cancer research and also to help those with hardships in the community. The Slye family gives out scholarships to selected recipients from the schools in Stafford County.

Now, Slye is helping LLS with its annual big fundraising event. He continues his push to raise money through his social media channels, with help from both Union Bank & Trust and the Virginia Tech Athletics Department. He also received permission to put on an event at Tech’s Indoor Practice Facility on April 23, the Sunday after the spring game.

For small fees, those who attend can participate in games such bubble ball soccer and cornhole. There also will be a silent auction for certain items/memorabilia.

Those who wish to contribute online can do so by clicking here.

Slye expects many former Tech players to return to campus that weekend and hopes that they, too, participate in the event, allowing for potential photo opportunities with these players in exchange for a donation.

“To have some of those famous alumni come back would be huge,” Slye said. “A couple of companies are going to be vendors. There will be food and refreshments and stuff like that. It’ll be like the Relay for Life [an event on the Tech campus], which they do two days before [April 21], so we’re going to continue the push through the weekend.”

His event also will be held in conjunction with a “Be The Match” event – a group that collects swabs of people’s cheeks of those possibly interested in donating bone marrow. The event fits in perfectly with Slye’s event since many with leukemia or other blood cancers need bone marrow transplants.

Slye’s fundraising efforts haven’t taken his focus away from football or his academics, but even if he were a tad distracted, he would have a big ally in his corner – Virginia Tech football coach Justin Fuente. Slye keeps Fuente in the loop, and Fuente supports him fully in his mission.

“He’s talked to me off and on about it,” Fuente said. “He grabs me, kind of keeps me up to date. My message is, ‘We’ll do what we need to do to help you. I’m going to take my cues from you as you need help. If there’s anything you need, we stand ready to support you and help you in any possible.’”

The next several weeks leading up to Virginia Tech’s annual Maroon-Orange Spring Game on April 22 and Slye’s big event on April 23 figure to be extremely busy ones for the young man.

But he’s not afraid of the challenge.

“I’ve been working my butt. I’ve been really grinding,” he said. “But my brother was huge to me, and anything honestly I can do for my brother … it’s [the work] nothing. Honestly, it really is.”

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