In honor of Zachary "Zach" Lederer, whose battle with cancer inspired the Zaching Against Cancer support and awareness foundation, Howard County Executive Allan Kittleman will declare May 1 "Zaching Day" in Howard County on what would mark Lederer's 24th birthday.
The Zaching Against Cancer Foundation began shortly after January 2012 when a picture of the then 18-year-old College Park student, who was diagnosed with brain cancer, went viral. The photo captured Lederer doing the strongman pose in a hospital bed following surgery.
His parents, John and Christine Lederer, said the pose became known as "Zaching," and they continued running the foundation after their son's death in March 2014.
Christine Lederer said the foundation will launch a social media campaign on May 1, encouraging people to send in photos and videos of themselves Zaching and who they're Zaching for. Supporters can also donate $24 to the foundation in memory of Lederer's birthday.
Last year, the foundation helped nearly 800 patients, mostly through partnerships with 15 Maryland hospitals; however, foundation funding has also reached hospitals in Massachusetts and Florida. Lederer said this is the first year the family will publicly celebrate her son's birthday.
"The Zaching pose represents strength, courage, determination and hope in honor of all cancer patients and those battling cancer," she said. "We are thrilled about the attention given to Zachary's legacy and the work that the Zaching Against Cancer Foundation is doing. The fact that County Executive Kittleman is willing to do this is humbling."
Columbia-based Nightmare Graphics will design and release limited-edition T-shirts for the declaration. The original strongman pose logo is printed on the T-shirt above an image of the state of Maryland, with the date "May 1st Zaching Day" and the foundation's four-word mission, "strength, courage, determination, hope," printed on the back.
Rob Andelman, the company president, said Nightmare Graphics was the creator of the original Zaching logo, which features a strongman pose cutout filled in with the Maryland flag and "Zaching Against Cancer" in bold red, yellow and white letters. Andelman reached out to the Lederer family early in the foundation's growth.
"We didn't expect anything to come of it," Andelman said. "We created a logo and his dad came by and chatted with us. We were blown away by Zach."
As the foundation's ambassador, Taylor Cummings said she strives to push the foundation's mission to raise money and awareness of all forms of cancer. Cummings met Zach Lederer in college through a mutual friend, she said, and has since attended dozens of runs and other events to support Zaching Against Cancer.
"It's an awesome way to honor Zach's legacy not only for him, but also his family, the organization and every person that he's impacted before and after he passed," Cummings said. "It's a great celebration of life."
When asked about Lederer's legacy, Kittleman said he was a person "we can all learn from."
"Zach Lederer was an inspiration to us all," Kittleman said. "He lived with courage and good humor and he never gave up."
Christine Lederer said she's happy to celebrate her son's birthday with the foundation and remember that no one is alone in the fight against cancer.
"The reason he made that pose was so that he could assure his friends and family that he was going to be OK. That was the motivation," she said. "It wasn't to start media frenzy. It turned out to be a wonderful symbol and a way to encourage people to get through this horrible fight that everyone has been touched by."
To donate or purchase a limited-edition Zaching Day T-shirt, go to https://www.zachingagainstcancer.org/zaching-day-t-shirts-pick.