Walk to benefit brain cancer treatment

In March 1985, Quinn Phillips was looking forward to graduation. The tall, good-looking Mercer Island High School senior couldn’t help but anticipate walking in cap and gown to Pomp and Circumstance in June. He was excited for what the future held. Although Quinn assumed that it would be filled with opportunities and challenges, he had no way of imagining what would play out exactly 20 years later — challenges and opportunities of a kind that most will never face.

After receiving his MIHS diploma, the firstborn son of Gene and Edyth Phillips obtained his undergraduate degree from the University of Washington and an MBA from Seattle University. He married and went to work for Boeing as an analyst. Ever the athlete, Quinn stayed in physical shape celebrating God’s gifts of strength and endurance, and the beauty of the Northwest. In addition to seeking the Creator through regular worship, this Christ-follower religiously embraced aerobic activities such as hiking, running and skiing. Life was full and complete.

Jump ahead two decades. In January 2005, Quinn participated in a mini-triathalon. Two months later, he was training to compete in the Rotary Half-Marathon to benefit Colon Cancer Research. And then the unexpected occurred. The day after running nine miles, Quinn had a seizure that left him partially paralyzed. Following a series of tests, the seemingly healthy 37-year-old was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor.

A week after the Phillips family received the devastating news, I was in town interviewing with the pastoral search committee at Mercer Island Covenant Church. Since Quinn is the son of the church’s resident psychiatrist, I was told of the situation. It deeply impacted me. During that visit, while buying a burger at the local McDonalds, I looked up at the TV on the wall.

Breaking news flashed across the screen. The CNN news anchor was announcing that celebrated defense lawyer Johnnie Cochran had just died from a malignant brain tumor.

Fast-forward three years. Quinn Phillips has become a friend of mine. I have been inspired by his amazing courage and faith. He continues to fight his disease although the cancer seems to be gaining the upper hand. All the same, Quinn refuses to give in. He continues to work at his job and does his best to remain physically active in spite of the limited use of his left side. His trust in God and optimistic outlook is remarkable. His faith is contagious. So is his winsome smile.

A few weeks ago while working out at the gym, I was watching CNN. Another breaking news item flashed across the screen. I was shocked to learn that Sen. Ted Kennedy had been diagnosed with brain cancer. My mind raced back to that day three years earlier in McDonalds. I thought about Johnnie Cochran. I thought about Quinn. I thought of KOMO news anchor Kathi Goertzen. I thought about recent news stories linking cell phone use with brain cancer. I wondered if anything could be done.

It was during this time when I got a phone call. Kim Hogle, a 20-something insurance agent whose wedding I’d recently officiated, asked to meet me at Starbucks. She said that she was working on a fundraising effort and would tell me more. I learned that Kim was so troubled by the disproportional number of people in her life who were battling or had died from brain cancer that she had determined to do something.

That “something” is the first annual Seattle Brain Cancer Walk. It will be held at the Mercer Island High School track on Saturday, June 28, from 9 a.m. to noon. Walkers and those willing to sponsor walkers are welcome. In addition, there will be a silent auction on site. All monies collected will benefit the Center for Advanced Brain Tumor Treatment at Swedish Medical Center.

According to Kim, “The Brain Cancer Walk will help to establish a comprehensive, multi-disciplinary brain tumor treatment center that will provide hope to patients throughout the Pacific Northwest who are diagnosed with brain tumors.”

More information about the event can be obtained at or by calling (206) 320-7162.

Pastor Greg Asimakoupoulos is the head of the Mercer Island Covenant Church and a regular contributor to the Reporter.

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