OGDEN -- When Tanner Smith walked into Daniel Hedlund's LDS Seminary class at Northridge High School last year, the two instantly became great friends.
Hedlund, who has been battling osteosarcoma for the past six years -- including more than 10 surgeries and 20 rounds of chemotherapy -- knew Tanner was having a rough time. Tanner's brother, Tyler, had died of a rare form of liver cancer in May 2012 at age 15.
"Because of the classroom setting, I knew we could help each other spiritually," Hedlund said. "I knew what he and his family had been through, and I knew Tyler had recently passed away."
Hedlund was at Weber State University on Saturday morning running in the F2TF 5K for his own cause as well as in memory of Tyler. His team of 26 was part of a bigger team of 1,500 people who showed up for their loved ones battling cancer.
The event, said organizer Ann Smith, who is also the mother of Tyler, expected 200 participants. She said she was stunned to learn the actual number of people who signed up.
F2TF stands for Fight 2 The Finish. It was Tyler's own motto while he was fighting the disease that ravaged through his body. During his battle, Tyler was given a tree with cash and gift cards. Dylan Shaw, a young boy battling a brain tumor, raised money selling lemonade to give Tyler this gift, Smith said.
"Dylan lost his battle just three weeks later," she said. "Tyler loved us so much and it brought him so much joy, he decided to pass it on to others fighting cancer. They in turn passed it on to other teenagers they knew in their small cancer world. After Ty's death, we decided to raise money to continue this legacy and to help bring a moment of peace and hope to others who are suffering from cancer as well."
Jeffrey R. Holland, an apostle of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, heard about the four original Giving Tree kids and invited them to his office last November.
"It was an afternoon we will never forget," Smith said. "Maddie Cook, a sweet 16-year-old, is the only one who was able to go into remission and beat the disease. She helps with these fundraisers and helps to honor her friends who have passed away."
Dozens of teams wore bright-colored T-shirts with their logos, including Team Kelli, Team Todd, Team Kyle, Team Porter, Team Brandon, Team T-Bone and many more.
Lori Christianson was there to run in memory of her father, Steve, who died from melanoma three years ago.
"I'm here because he was an amazing man and I want to honor him," she said. "He fought hard until the very end. In fact, he worked up until the very end and died two days after hospice stepped in."
Before the run, Anything for a Friend executive director Becky Anderson spoke, and Maddie triggered a balloon launch.
"This is not a competition to see who comes in first," Anderson said. "This is a fight to the finish. We are here today to help heal a heart and lift one another up with strength."
Proceeds from the race will go to Giving Trees for the next 12 months.