Greg Lattanzi donated bone marrow to Stevy Cellum. He flew into Oklahoma on Friday night, July 8, to visit the family and community.
TISHOMINGO — Greg Lattanzi’s selflessness transcended time zones.
While at Villanova University six years ago, he and a couple friends acted upon flyers advertising an annual drive at school, unaware of the impact his potential donation could provide.
Lattanzi arrived in Oklahoma on Friday night. For the first time, he immersed himself in Stevy Lyn Cellum’s world, in her immediate surroundings as she grew up and as she battled leukemia.
She lost the fight in October, 2011.
“I feel like we had a whole year that we might not have had otherwise,” Gayla Cellum, Stevy’s mother, said.
As Stevy’s brother, Justin, spoke of meeting Lattanzi, his voice shook slightly, replete with emotion.
“I can’t even put it into words,” Justin said of Lattanzi’s sacrifice. “It’s amazing to be able to meet somebody so unselfish and so willing to give to others like he has, and he did for us. To just be able to come and tell him ‘Thank you,’ to have him here and be a part of this, it’s really been quite an experience for us and our family.”
Lattanzi participated in the 5K, one of three runs that comprised the 6th Annual Stevy’s Run, held Saturday at First United Methodist Church of Tishomingo.
After the awards presentation and after the emcee played a song that Stevy recorded before her passing — yet prior to the rainfall — Lattanzi detailed how he spent Friday night.
“We talked for hours,” Lattanzi said. “We admitted it’s really not like meeting each other for the first time because we’ve been in contact so much. We’ve been communicating.
“It’s just been amazing, meeting the community, seeing everything and hearing all the stories from everyone. It’s just been amazing.”
A couple seconds after he said this, two women approached Lattanzi before they departed, thanking him.
“You gave us time with her (Stevy),” one said.
The other told Lattanzi of her experience as a parent of a 20-year-old, of the selfishness that widely intrinsic at that age.
“It’s just awesome that you did that,” she said.
Lattanzi “just turned 19 that summer, right before I got the call,” he said.
He described how this occasion came to fruition.
“Just walking through campus, they were kind of hyping it (this drive) up, saying, ‘Hey, come register. You could save a life,’” Lattanzi said. “Myself and a couple friends, we went in. It was real easy. They just do a cheek swab, take down some information (about prospective donors) and then, about three months later, I got a call saying I was a potential match for a young girl.
“I went through a little bit of blood testing (and) a couple other tests to make sure I was healthy enough to donate. Then, I got the final call, saying, ‘Yes, they actually want to use you as the donor.’”
Lattanzi visited a local hospital, underwent a procedure that spanned 90 minutes and stayed overnight for precautionary reasons.
“Then I was back to doing everything I’m doing.”
On September 30, 2010, the bone marrow was flown to Oklahoma City. Cellum underwent the transplant procedure. In April, 2011, modules developed in Cellum’s lungs. Though removed, she developed more.
She passed away six months later.
The first run occurred during Stevy’s lifetime.
“It’s always great to come back, remember Stevy and (experience) fellowship together,” said Justin, who is also the head women’s basketball coach at Murray State College. “The community’s always (provided) great support.
“It’s nice for us to come together and give back to the community as well. All the money we raised goes to different things in the community. Some of it goes to the hospital in Oklahoma City.”
Before the first run began, before the 10K commenced at at 7:15 a.m., the emcee recognized Lattanzi for his selflessness.
“I really had no idea (what to expect) coming in,” Lattanzi said. “I knew that it’d definitely be a very emotional day. Between hearing everyone talk about her, all the stories, meeting people, her family and friends, just everyone in the community, it’s been very emotional, kind of overwhelming, almost.
“Do what you can to help other people. That’s what I try to live by.”
Two Tishomingo H.S. alums discuss Cellum’s memory
TISHOMINGO — Carolyne Lawley grew up with Stevy Lyn Cellum.
A rower at the University of Oklahoma, Te’a Elliott-Fox’s teammates knew of her friend from Tishomingo.
“It’s a really good thing to come from a small town and have that girl still on my side, still an inspiration,” Elliott-Fox said.
The two alumnas from the Class of 2015 participated in the 5K of the 6th Annual Stevy’s Run Saturday at First United Methodist Church of Tishomingo.
Gayla Cellum, Stevy’s mother, said the two actively volunteered at blood drives and this run, held on Stevy’s behalf.
Lawley said she was at basketball camp when she first learned of Stevy’s battle with cancer.
“This was a really good turnout today,” Lawley said. “We’ll always miss Stevy, but we know that she’s watching over us and that she’s always hear with us in our hearts.”
Ardmore resident Robert Freeman (20:14) won the men’s division of the 5K.
Class of 2016 Plainview High School alumna Madie Gray (20:39) won the women’s division.
Logan Blackburn (38:22) won the men’s division of the 10K.
Christie Morrison (46:58) won the women’s division.