Northwestern students raise more than $25,000 for cancer research, host series of physical challenges


Luis Castaneda/The Daily Northwestern

Weinberg freshman Daniel Solomon (left) and McCormick sophomore Josh Brice (right) raised more than $25,000 to raise awareness of skin cancer and support Kai Yun (center).

Luis Castañeda, Reporter

Every day at 7 a.m., before his classes, McCormick senior Kai Yun attends radiation therapy sessions as part of his chemotherapy.

He was first diagnosed with epithelioid sarcoma, a rare skin cancer, shortly after graduating high school in 2017. Following multiple breaks from school due to hospitalizations and treatment, he said he hopes to finish all requirements for his computer science degree by fall 2023. 

Yun said his time at Northwestern has been inconsistent since he has been “in and out of hospitals.”

“I just kept getting held behind, and I wanted to do things, I wanted to prove myself, I wanted to build back,” Yun said. 

He said he began working out and joined the Residency program at The Garage.

At first, Yun didn’t think he’d make new friends, since many of his classmates had already graduated from NU. But, in Fall Quarter, he met McCormick sophomore Josh Brice and Weinberg freshman Daniel Solomon in the Henry Crown Sports Pavilion weight room.

Yun said “gym bros” might seem angry, but they are the kindest people he has ever met. 

After two of his fingers were amputated in 2019, Yun thought he was too weak to lift weights. But, he didn’t give up. 

“I don’t think there’s more of a Goliath in that department (of inspiring people) than Kai,” Solomon said, “If you look next to you, and you see Kai, missing his fingers, going through chemo and squatting more than you, maybe you start working a little harder.”

After Solomon and Brice met Yun, the pair decided to create a fundraiser on GoFundMe to support people who have been diagnosed with cancer. Since Yun’s chemotherapy treatment is covered by insurance, the three decided that funds raised would go toward the American Institute for Cancer Research. 

To honor Yun’s perseverance through chemotherapy treatment, Solomon and Brice planned a week of physical challenges for late February and earlier this month, pushing their bodies to the limit and posting updates on the @25withKai Instagram page. The challenges were also part of an effort to raise awareness of the GoFundMe page, which has raised more than $25,000 so far.

The pair took part in multiple challenges, such as swimming in Lake Michigan at 5 a.m., completing 1000 push ups, doing 1500 crunches and fasting for nearly 24 hours.

On Sunday, to end the week of activities, Solomon and Brice carried bags full of rocks and 25-pound dumbbells from the Segal Visitors Center on South Campus to Lisa’s Cafe on North Campus — all while hauling a weighted sled. 

Yun said he appreciated the help and support he has received from the gym community.

“They’re willing to sacrifice their (time) to help you,” he said. 

Brice said besides raising money, the GoFundMe aims to increase cancer awareness. Since attending NU, Brice said he has known at least three people who have had to take medical leave after being diagnosed with a form of cancer.

“If there’s three people in my social circles that are experiencing (cancer), I can’t imagine how much (further) it’s (increasing),” he said. 

According to Brice, initiatives to spread cancer awareness in the U.S. are not as prevalent as they are in his home country, Australia. He said many members of his family, including his aunts and grandmother, have had skin cancer. 

Yun said his loved ones also go through a different kind of pain, especially when they are powerless to help him. 

But, despite adversity, Yun said he tries to never give up.

“Keep looking at your goal and moving forward, little steps at a time, and last thing is never skip leg day,” Yun said. 

Email: [email protected] 

Twitter: @LA_Casta220

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