At just 9 years old, Bryce Toby has five years of fundraising for Relay for Life under his belt.
By Eden Lichterman
Photography by Boswell Hardwick
Most 4-year-olds are just beginning to formulate sentences, draw shapes and dress themselves. When Bryce Toby turned 4, he decided to raise money for Relay for Life, the American Cancer Society’s annual community fundraising event.
Five years later, the Auburn Hills native has raised over $2,000 through coin drives, snack stands and the annual Relay for Life of West Bloomfield-Bloomfield Hills event. At just 9 years old, Bryce is on a mission to defeat the disease that has taken so many members of his family.
“I don’t want other people to have the same thing happen to their families,” he says.
When Bryce was 3, he participated in his first Relay for Life event as a member of his family’s team. During the fundraiser, supporters and people affected by cancer walk laps around a track and visit food and entertainment stations. All the donations go toward funding research and cancer treatments for people who cannot otherwise afford them. Toward the end of the event when the sun sets, volunteers light Luminarias for those who have passed from cancer.
As Bryce watched his family members emotionally light Luminarias for his late great aunt, he asked his mother why they were crying. She explained to him that her aunt was no longer with them, and they had “owies in their hearts.” A mature and determined 3-year-old, Bryce knew he wanted to help. The following year, he brought a collection canister to preschool and has been raising money ever since.
Each year, Bryce’s school, Walton Charter Academy in Pontiac, designates April as its charity month. Beginning in kindergarten, Toby has asked his principal every year to choose Relay for Life as the school’s beneficiary, and the principal has agreed. Students bring in coins for a school-wide coin drive and can purchase footprint cutouts that Bryce pastes on the gym walls to commemorate loved ones battling cancer or who have passed away.
While the school chose a different charity for April this year, the administration was so inspired by Bryce’s hard work that they allotted the month of May to raise money for Relay for Life. In just one month, the students raised almost $600.
Throughout his five years volunteering with Relay for Life, Bryce has worked closely with Michelle Silber, former event lead for Relay for Life of West Bloomfield-Bloomfield Hills and Bryce’s cousin. Bryce motivates Silber and so many others in Metro Detroit to go out and make a difference. “He is truly touching (people affected by cancer) with his heart and with his fundraising efforts,” Silber says.
Toward the beginning of Toby’s journey with Relay for Life, Silber created and awarded Bryce with the Power of One Award to celebrate his drive to make impactful change. “He’s been such an inspiration to our whole Relay community,” she says.
In addition to raising money in school and at the Relay event, Bryce runs a snack stand at Detroit anime conventions and donates the proceeds to Relay for Life. At the last Youmacon, a four-day anime convention in Detroit, Bryce raised $120.
Being a seasoned fundraiser at just 9 years old naturally elicits some shocked responses. “Sometimes people will look at me like, ‘Dude, you’re only 9. What are you doing here?’ ” Bryce says. But that is only a reason to keep going. Each penny he raises brings him one step closer to his goal of beating cancer for good.
Donate to Bryce’s Relay for Life fundraiser here.
Bryce is a SEEN 2018 Young Changemaker. Read more about the finalists: