Student loses battle with cancer

Spinnaker

Grant Prather, a 26-year-old UNF student, fought long and hard with colon cancer, and his surviving family now takes solace that he is finally pain-free, his mother, Jo Anne McKinney said.

Prather died Feb. 28 from the disease, after undergoing multiple sessions of chemotherapy.

Upon reflection of her son’s life and accomplishments, McKinney said her son was the bravest person she knew.

“When he found out he had less than six months to live, he immediately began to talk about things he wouldn’t be able to do,” she said. “At the top of the list was graduating.”

Even after his last surgery, when doctors discovered the cancer had spread, he was optimistic and purchased exercise equipment to strengthen his body, McKinney said.

“[But] in the end, his body was just not strong enough,” she said.

Every year, more than 2.7 million people die from colon cancer  in the U.S., according to the National Cancer Institute.

Prather was also diagnosed with cystic fibrosis, as a young child and received a double-lung transplant a few weeks before his 18th birthday.

But it didn’t stop him from living his life to the fullest, McKinney said.

During his struggle with illnesses, he co-founded the Big Fun Foundation with his mother.

The foundation is responsible for creating the Big Fun Box, an activity kit that helps children use their imagination to entertain themselves during prolonged hospital experiences.

“They were head games – games we made up in our family that we could play anywhere, without paper or pencils or anything,” McKinney said. “[The foundation’s] goal was to use the imagination to distract the patients from fear and boredom.”

The Big Fun Foundation can now be found in 26 states and 31 hospitals, and is set to continue its work helping patients similar to Prather, she said.

Prather was also the student director for Get Carded, a campus organization to promote organ donations among students.

A memorial service for Prather is scheduled for 6 p.m. March 5 at Lakewood United Methodist Church on San Jose Boulevard in Jacksonville.

Instead of sending flowers, Prather requested people send donations to the Big Fun Foundation at
thebigfunbox.org.

E-mail James Cannon II at [email protected]