Lee and Nathanial Walls: Doing Something Extraordinary

Lee Walls has been a valiant runner and fundraiser for the V Foundation's Team V for years. But this upcoming Chicago Marathon will mean even more to him as his son and thriver Nathanial Walls runs by his side.

V Foundation founder Jim Valvano famously said, “Every single day, in every walk of life, ordinary people do extraordinary things.” Meet Lee and Nathanial Walls, a father-son duo who are preparing for something extraordinary this year.

In October, they will be running the 2024 Bank of America Chicago Marathon to benefit game-changing cancer research at the V Foundation. They are part of Team V, the V Foundation’s official endurance training program where runners can participate in major marathons worldwide while fundraising.

While completing a marathon is a rare and incredible feat in itself, the Walls family has an unmatched passion for the V Foundation’s cause which keeps them running toward their fundraising goals and the finish line: Nathanial, now 16 years old, is a pediatric cancer thriver.

Research in action

In February 2019, at just 10 years old, Nathanial started experiencing unusual symptoms, prompting a visit to urgent care with his parents. Within several days, they received the devastating news that Nathanial had leukemia. He was treated at Duke Children’s Hospital, completing 70 days of inpatient care and spending many 12-hour days at the Jim Valvano Day Hospital, a treatment center at Duke designed specifically for children to receive infusions like chemotherapy.

During this time, both Lee and Nathanial saw how cancer research helped guide their plan and offer the best quality of care. “We could look ahead 16 months to see where he would be, what medicine he was going to be on. All of that was because people before us went through trials,” explained Lee. On June 24, 2021, Nathanial rang the bell to celebrate the end of his treatment.

“He benefited from everything that came before him. He’s here because of cutting-edge research."
Lee Walls

Lee Walls, 2022 NYC Marathon with Team V

A newfound passion for running

As Nathanial went through treatment, Lee began running as a healthy outlet, his own form of therapy. What started as short routes around the Duke campus progressed into local 10-mile runs and eventually, his first full marathon.

When he set his sights on the New York City Marathon, his sixth marathon, he knew he wanted to make his miles count toward a cause greater than himself, and it was Nathanial’s idea for him to support the V Foundation. “I approached my son and said, ‘I’m doing this to honor you and what you went through. Help me decide.’ And he said, ‘Dad, can you run for Jimmy V?’

Lee completed the 2022 New York City Marathon as a part of Team V, raising thousands of dollars for cancer research, with Nathanial and the rest of the family joining him in New York to celebrate his finish. This trip was a big deal for the Walls Family: not only a major running accomplishment for Lee, but also a long-awaited trip filled with family memories that had been on hold since Nathanial’s diagnosis.

Now 16 years old and thriving, Nathanial has moved from spectator to runner, participating as a member of his high school cross-country team and joining his dad on local runs and races.

Putting it all together

With a very personal passion for advancing cancer research and a shared love for running, Nathanial is lacing up his sneakers to join Lee as a member of Team V. In fact, Nathanial will be the youngest Team V runner to participate in the Chicago Marathon! They are currently fundraising and training, determined to pay it forward so all families can continue to build special memories like these.

Side by side, they will be achieving the 26.2 milestone together – an extraordinary accomplishment made possible through lifesaving cancer research.

“I want to leave things better than how I found them. And if I can prevent anybody from going through what Nathanial had to go through, then sign me up,” said Lee.

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