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Carlos Valencia's heroism lives on 17 years later

Seventeen years ago, Carlos Valencia captured the hearts of Tucson.

Even though he lost his battle with leukemia in 2004 — Valencia's spirit — and heroism — lives on at his alma mater Salpointe Catholic High School.
Posted at 6:28 AM, Nov 16, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-16 18:33:54-05

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — Seventeen years ago, Carlos Valencia captured the hearts of Tucson.

Even though he lost his battle with leukemia in 2004 — Valencia's spirit — and heroism — lives on at his alma mater Salpointe Catholic High School.

"If he couldn't find a cure for himself by getting a good core blood, then he gave somebody else a chance to live. So, that was his legacy," said Carlos' father, Ford Valencia.

That was the legacy Carlos Valencia left behind in 2004, after losing his battle with leukemia.

Before his death, Tucson rallied around Valencia. Over 6,000 people were tested as possible bone marrow donors.

"Carlos's great courage, his selflessness and his ability to move us all to action make him one of Salpointe Catholic's greatest heroes," said Mike Urbanski.

Today, Carlos Valencia is still remembered as a hero.

Every November, Ford and Cecilia Valencia attend the Salpointe Catholic High School heroes assembly.

This year, former University of Arizona swimmer and Olympic medalist Lacey Nymeyer John was invited to talk about being a hero, like Carlos Valencia.

Lacey Nymeyer John speaking at Salpointe heroes assembly

"Who are the heroes in my life? The people that we were envisioning probably didn't have capes on and they weren't on the top of the Olympic podium. They were the everyday people that could see our struggles and to help us in those moments of need," said Lacey Nymeyer John.

An everyday person like Carlos Valencia, and this year's member of the junior class presented with an award in Valencia's name.

"The 2021 Carols Valencia humanitarian award to Mac Tronsdal," said Urbanski.

Like Valencia, Tronsdal is an unassuming member of the Salpointe student body, who is a hero to his fellow classmates for being kind and compassionate.

Tronsdal said the award means "A lot. I mean, I've always been pretty low-key, reserved kind of guy. To be recognized for that is both odd and it's an honor."

The Salpointe heroes assembly also includes presenting the John Glinski award, named for a lancer football player who died of cancer in 1968.

This years winner, Ellias Bettis Roberts.

Two heroes, still honored at their alma mater.

"You don't need to draw attention to yourself. Just by the way that you act and the way that you carry on in your life, you can be a hero," said Phil Gruensfelder.