Students pass on graduation party, donate funds to cancer center

Cohort president Carlos Villanueva and classmate Carly Davenport Rodgers.

Students in the traditional bachelor’s program in the School of Nursing set to graduate in December were looking forward to a big party to mark the big occasion. The cohort had been raising money in a variety of ways for the past two years, and had about $2,000 set aside for what they figured would be a celebration to remember.

Turns out it will be, just not in the way the cohort originally planned.

On Sept. 6, U.S. Navy Capt. Matthew Davenport, a 30-year Navy veteran, passed away in New Braunfels of sarcoma, a rare cancer that attacks the connective tissue. Carly Davenport Rodgers, his daughter, is a member of the cohort.

“Multiple people started coming to me, asking how we could help our friend, Carly,” said Carlos Villanueva, president of the graduating cohort of about 100 students. After learning more about Carly’s dad, the cohort decided to donate the party funds to the Sarcoma Center at MD Anderson in memory of Matthew Davenport.

Davenport Rodgers said she was surprised and moved by the donation. “It was very sweet to go from thinking no one knew what I was going through to realizing my class had chosen to give up a group activity to show their support.”

Sarcoma is extremely rare, is hard to diagnose, and took her father in less than a year, Davenport Rodgers said.

“Although he is no longer in the fight, the war continues,” she told her fellow students when the decision was announced. “This donation will aid in continuing to further research for sarcoma, a disease that accounts for only one percent of adult cancer diagnoses, which is rare, until it happens to you or someone you love. My dad is past help, but donations like this could make the difference for another man, another family.”

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