Troy High grad walks 100 miles in honor of deceased Purdue classmate

By: Terry Oparka | Troy Times | Published March 5, 2019

 Purdue University student and Troy High School graduate Aaron Lai visits with Kelly and Tony Trent, the parents of Tyler Trent, the Purdue student he walked nearly 100 miles to honor, upon his arrival at Indiana University Feb. 19.

Purdue University student and Troy High School graduate Aaron Lai visits with Kelly and Tony Trent, the parents of Tyler Trent, the Purdue student he walked nearly 100 miles to honor, upon his arrival at Indiana University Feb. 19.

Photo provided by Aaron Lai

 Lai chats with two supporters he met during his trek.

Lai chats with two supporters he met during his trek.

Photo provided by Aaron Lai

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TROY — When Troy native Aaron Lai, 20, ran track during his four years at Troy High School, he said his personal best was as a sprinter.

He didn’t sprint until near the end of the nearly 100-mile route he recently completed, battling snow, cold and icy roads from Purdue University to Indiana University.

He set out the morning of Feb. 17 and arrived just before 6:30 p.m. Feb. 19 to honor Tyler Trent, a Purdue classmate he had never met.

In doing so, Lai raised $24,000 for the Tyler Trent Cancer Research Endowment.

According to the Purdue University website, Tyler Robert Trent was born on Sept. 7, 1998, and passed away from osteosarcoma bone cancer on Jan. 1, 2019. He was 20 years old. He was known as a cancer activist who attended Purdue University. He was diagnosed with osteosarcoma for the first time as a 15-year-old in 2014.

“Tyler maintained a strong relationship with the Purdue football team and served as the honorary captain in both the 2017 and the 2018 Hammer Down Cancer games,” the website states.

According to the website, Trent had dreamed of being a national sports writer and statistician.

“He broke through the cluttered world of social media, inspiring a flood of support nationwide and demonstrating his passion for life, his passion for Purdue, and his passion to do whatever he could to raise awareness and money for cancer research, even in the midst of the crazy, horrible journey that he had been on. He just wanted to help people.”

Lai said he walked from Purdue University to Indiana University, arriving at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall Feb. 19 for the Purdue men’s basketball game against Indiana. Purdue won 48-46.

“I did it to honor the spirit of Tyler Trent and his dedication to Purdue sports,” Lai said. He added that he also did it to honor his grandfather, Chai Dechang, who died of lung cancer two years ago.

Lai said he didn’t start to run until the end.

“I wasn’t going to get there on time (for tipoff),” he said. “I actually had to run the last 5 miles.”

He said his fraternity brothers from Delta Chi arrived at spots along his route every four hours to check on him.

He took a break to sleep both nights.

“I told my parents I would do this, (mother Hong Chai and father Qin Lai),” he said. “They are pretty proud.”

“My involvement with athletics (at Troy High School) really helped me,” he said.

When Lai spoke with C & G Newspapers Feb. 22, he said he still had many blisters.

Lisa Tally, assistant vice president for philanthropic communications, University Development Office, Purdue Research Foundation, an independent organization that acts for the benefit of Purdue University, said that before Lai’s contribution, $1.2 million had been raised for the endowment.

“That generosity speaks to the love the Purdue family felt,” she said. “The huge outpouring keeps (Trent’s) light shining.”

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