Monday, Sept. 3, 2012 | 2 a.m.
Henderson real estate agent Geoffrey Lavell never expected to be recognized for his real work.
Lavell, 29, works for Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate-Desert Properties. He’s worked as a Realtor for seven years, specializing in short-sale homes. He considers it the perfect career because it allows him to help people in need, earn a living and, most importantly, perform his real work as a volunteer for the Nevada Childhood Cancer Foundation.
“My real estate career gives me the means to donate my time in the amount that I do,” Lavell said. “Without the flexibility in my schedule, without the income ... I wouldn’t be able to volunteer as much as I do now.”
Lavell has dedicated the past 15 years of his life to the foundation. He volunteers to help ease children with cancer back into school, organize the yearly foundation gala and co-run Camp Cartwheel, a four-day camp for children with cancer and their siblings. And now, the National Association of Realtors is recognizing him for that work.
In the midst of childhood cancer awareness month, Lavell was chosen as a finalist for Realtor Magazine’s 2012 Good Neighbor Award, designed to recognize Realtors who volunteer for local causes. But for Lavell, it’s more than just a passionate cause — it’s a personal one.
“I was very humbled and flattered by the idea that I had been recognized,” Lavell said. “... It was nice to know that it was something people noticed.”
Lavell was diagnosed with leukemia Sept. 24, 1997.
Before that day, Lavell was focused on playing on the offensive line for the Bishop Gorman High School football team as a 14-year-old freshman. Then, in the midst of the team’s week of intense training sessions, his life changed.
The first five months were the toughest. He underwent chemotherapy, saw children with similar life-threatening illnesses die and rarely was in the classroom. The cancer also introduced Lavell to the cancer foundation-funded Camp Cartwheel.
“I was very averse to embracing that component of my new life,” Lavell said. “I was apprehensive to partake in the cancer community because it was like accepting the illness.”
Lavell said the camp is designed to give kids dealing with cancer and their siblings an escape. They go on hikes and have campfires, and they can meet other kids going through the same issues. It allows them to be normal for four days, he said.
Lavell worked as a councilor in training that first year. The experience opened his eyes to a new community of volunteers, families and friends. Even after his cancer went into remission in 1998, he became a mainstay at the camp every year.
He has threatened to quit jobs if they refused to grant him the four days off at the end of July so that he could work the camp. He’s missed out on selling dozens of homes for it.
There he met his wife, who worked as a nurse at the camp; they were married on the property.
The cancer and that camp became the fiber of who he is.
“Everything has changed because of the cancer,” Lavell said. “I was fortunate to have it. ... Obviously, I was fortunate to beat it too, but the cancer introduced me to a community that I don’t believe I would’ve been introduced to otherwise.”
Ever since that diagnosis, Lavell’s life has been focused on the foundation. He also holds puppet shows and question-and-answer sessions at schools throughout Clark County to reintroduce a child with cancer to his classmates. He has even upgraded the script and purchased newer, friendlier-looking puppets.
He is so dedicated that the foundation named him Volunteer of the Year this year.
“Camp Cartwheel and NCCF mean the world to me,” Lavell said. “I can’t imagine my life now, much like with my child, without them.”
Even with the recognition the award provides, Lavell is more excited about what it means for the foundation. The foundation is guaranteed a $2,500 grant, and it could earn $10,000 if he is selected in the top five. For Lavell that means at a minimum, 10 kids will receive a free trip to camp next year.
“The one thing I love from all this is just for more people to be aware of and involved with childhood cancer,” Lavell said. “Whether it’s touched them personally or something they think is the right thing to do, I wish more people would donate their time and money to the people that need it the most: the kids.”