SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — A Lake Poinsett man has faced a lot of challenges in his life. From childhood cancer to the unexpected loss of those close to him. Now he is helping others facing challenges of their own.

Ty Eschenbaum is a survivor. He was diagnosed with leukemia at age 15. His high school years were spent in and out of hospitals.

He has beat back cancer, but years of complications and chemotherapy took their toll.

“I was the pretty typical all-American boy, if you will, playing sports and going to school just got completely blindside by cancer and fought that and, because of the side effects, lost the ability to play sports. I missed most proms and homecomings and never stepped foot on a football field or basketball court again,” said Eschenbaum.

When Ty was sick, he developed friendships with other kids going through similar battles. He attended their funerals and realized he was the only one left. That is part of what led him to form The Ty Eschenbaum foundation 11 years ago.

It supports Make-a-Wish, helps youth cancer survivors with college scholarships, and funds missionary work in honor of his brother, who passed last year. Also, he made a pledge after his girlfriend. Autumn died of a blood clot in 2019.

“I vowed to do at least one Make-a-Wish, adopt one Make-a-Wish in her honor forever, and that is backed up by a life insurance policy on me,” said Eschenbaum.

Ty is stepping up his fundraising with the first-ever “Earn the Gift Gala” next month. He feels the fact that he is still alive is a gift.

“And that’s my message when I talk to a lot of kids in school is you are supposed to do the absolute best that you can with the gifts that you’ve been given,” said Eschenbaum.

The black tie optional event with food, auctions, and entertainment will be co-hosted by one of Ty’s Make-a-Wish friends, Koen.

“We were co-emcees at their Evening of Inspiration, their golf tournament at the country club this past summer, so we got to co-emcee that and spend the whole day hanging out with Make-a-Wish kids, and we had a blast, didn’t we Koen?

Koen: Mmm hm.

Tom Hanson: Koen, tell me about your wish and how that went.

“It was a surprise what it looked like when I got there,” said Koen.

Koen’s wish transformed the waiting room at Avera Specialty Pediatrics into his own farm kingdom.

They have 500 guests signed up for the event so far, with more tickets available.

The Earn the Gift Gala takes place December 3rd at the Swiftell Center in Brookings. Next year Eschenbaum plans to grow the event to Sioux Falls.