(WJLA) - On a rocky trail in Fairfax County, Tom Mitchell of Springfield trains for a race that even the toughest of athletes would never contemplate.
"I've been training out here for a couple years," he says.
Mitchell is affectionately called “Tattoo Tom,” and has a tattoo of his daughter Shayla from when she was three years old. He is running later this month in an off-road, 100-mile race in Ohio – not to win or place, but to finish for 100 children who are struggling, and in some cases, dying of cancer.
"I want to replicate the struggle that children with cancer face every single day," says Tom.
Those children include his daughter, Shayla, who was a stage-four patient. She was diagnosed at 16 years old and passed away two years later. She and her father talked a lot about being brave until the very end.
In the wake of Shayla’s death, Mitchell started “Stillbrave,” a foundation that provides non-medical needs for families struggling to pay their bills while their children undergo costly cancer treatments.
On Tuesday, Mitchell met with Melanie Noakes and her six-year-old daughter, Lily, who has an incurable form of brain cancer. The family has lost their home and has had to file for bankruptcy – an all too common plight for families faced with astronomical medical bills.
Noakes can’t believe Tattoo Tom is running so many miles over roots and mountains for her daughter. He will also carry with him 100 laminated photographs – a child for each mile, with Lily being Mile 89.
"There's nothing that Tom can't do or won't push himself to do," she says.
Tom’s dear friend Gabriella Miller is the 10-year-old who passed away last year of a brain tumor, and she is Mile 99. Shayla is Mile 100.
Mitchell competes in the Mohican Trail 100 over a two-day period from June 21 to June 22 in Loudounville, Ohio. He has already raised $41,000 toward his $50,000 goal for the Stillbrave Foundation.