Turner Cockrell was a student-athlete at Allatoona High School (AHS) who graduated in 2016 and went on to play football at Vanderbilt University (VU). Turner was a two-sport athlete, playing lacrosse and football, and he was such a big inspiration to younger students and other athletes. People would say he was a hero. But doctors discovered Turner had melanoma, and even though he had treatment and therapy, it was not enough. Sadly, the 21-year-old died on Nov. 29, 2018.
Cody Markel was Turner’s college roommate, and after Turner’s death, he wanted to honor his friend. He and other Vanderbilt students created Turner’s Heroes — named after Turner’s love for superheroes — which is a 501(c)(3c) nonprofit that works closely with pediatric hospitals to raise money for cancer research. Vanderbilt students go to pediatric hospitals across the country to talk to and have fun with the kids. They bring in capes and toys that allow them to be superheroes.
Each year, VU students designate one Allatoona football game as a fundraiser for Turner’s Heroes, and they sell capes and ask for donations at the concession stands. That night is very special for the athletes at AHS because everyone sees Turner as a close friend, even if we did not know him. He is a huge inspiration.
“Bittersweet is the way to explain Turner’s Heroes,” said Noelle Cockrell, Turner’s mom. “Bitter because of the reason why it was created. But it is sweet because of the message it sends and the help they put out.”
Noelle, who is the athletics clerk at Allatoona High, loves Turner’s Heroes, our community and how much it helps. People work hard for this organization to help with the research, and she could not be prouder. “I appreciate this community for being so good to us and knowing Turner’s story,” she said. “I want to thank everyone who helps. It means a lot that Turner will be loved and loved forever.”
This year, Turner’s Heroes chose the Allatoona Buccaneers’ Oct. 28 home game against the Sequoyah Chiefs as Superhero Night, the night to collect donations for the organization and to wear superhero costumes. Capes were sold on the Bucs’ side of the field as well as the Chiefs’ side for fans to wear, and donations were collected in the stadium. After the money was counted, the total raised was roughly $20,000. You still can donate by visiting https://qrco.de/bdRIN1. In addition to the fundraiser, a toy drive was conducted to help needy children at Christmas, and the total number of toys collected was 1,500.
We want to thank everyone who donated and the people who are involved in the organization. It is sad that this type of nonprofit had to be created, but what the members did it for is amazing. Turner was a role model when he was here, and he still is a huge role model now.
– Kamran Padilla is a senior at Allatoona High School. He is a member of the newspaper staff and a cadet chief petty officer in the Navy JROTC.