Parker Cornell always knew he wanted to be a Navy SEAL— he had been dreaming about it since fourth grade. He realized his goal in 2016, when he joined SEAL Team 5. His desire to also put kindness into the world found him volunteering his time with One Summit, a charity organization started by a fellow Navy SEAL that pairs children battling cancer and their siblings with SEAL mentors. The organization builds resilience and empowers children diagnosed with cancer to continue to grow and conquer the challenges in their path through storytelling, community building and activities like indoor rock climbing.
Cornell connected with a young cancer patient, Calvin, a 9-year-old with a brain tumor and will be running the Boston Marathon on April 15 to raise money for the boy’s treatment and for his family. When Cornell first met Calvin and brother Jack, he was motivated to do more for the family. Cornell told City of Kindness that, “The ability to support my mentee, Calvin, through One Summit has made me feel like I am selfless and did something more than just talk about helping others. It made me feel like I have purpose.” He saw that his buddy must endure things that most adults would struggle with and yet is determined to keep going. Cornell wants to do the same, despite his recent life challenges.
During a routine exercise, he suffered a devastating 20-foot fall from a helicopter ladder and landed on his head. He was treated for a severe brain injury, and during recovery and treatment he was also diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, followed by Lyme disease. These diagnoses were life-altering and could have been devastating, but Cornell is determined to stay positive, spreading kindness and taking on the challenges he faces one by one.
While he won’t be able to continue his journey as a Navy SEAL due to his injuries, Cornell keeps running and training, with a strong focus on the future. It is clear that Cornell hasn’t let the unfortunate circumstances of his life get in the way of living. He continues to work hard and help others, characteristics that haven’t gone unnoticed. In the Fall of 2018, Cornell was selected as the Harbaugh Foundation Fellow recognizing his character as he made his transition into civilian life.
“I send Jack and Calvin gifts from time to time and check in on them. I have become a role model for the boys so much that now Calvin wants to be a Navy SEAL someday.” As Cornell prepares to run the Boston Marathon, he knows that the kids from One Summit, especially his buddy, are looking to him and learning how to work through the unexpected and overcome life’s challenges. They’ll be there along the marathon route to cheer him on and celebrate his victory. Cornell continued, “I became a SEAL to protect others and keep evil from triumphing over good. To be able to raise the support for these kids with pediatric cancer has continued my sense of purpose. It’s directly in line with my reason for becoming a SEAL.”
Has Parker Cornell’s story of perseverance and kindness touched your heart? Consider supporting his Boston Marathon run to raise money for Calvin and his family by donating to Cornell’s crowdrise campaign. And remember to give a little extra kindness today, you never know who might need it most.