From his hospital bed, Levi Baker struggles to speak as he distributes the wisdom of his 18 years.
“No makeup,” he advises his 9-year-old cousin.
His past advice has included telling her and her 12-year-old sister to steer clear of boys.
Education is another important subject to him.
“He says, ‘And you must stay in school and get your education,’” says his grandmother, Judy Worthington.
Baker, despite his battle with testicular cancer, achieved his goal of graduating from high school. His longterm career plan was to complete college and become a game warden.
Boyle County High School Principal Will Begley and other administrators gathered at Levi’s home Wednesday for an early graduation ceremony for the teenager who has been on homebound studies since his cancer was diagnosed two years ago.
About 35 family members, including Levi’s mom, Pam Worthington, and his father, Eddy Baker, filled the room as they watched Levi receive the diploma.
“He smiled so big. He was so proud,” says Judy Worthington.
Begley said he was impressed by Levi’s desire to graduate and the stamina he mustered for the event.
“He probably stood 15 or 20 minutes after that for pictures. He stood right there with a smile on his face and took about 75 pictures.”
Begley said Levi is an inspiration.
“I get tore up just talking about it. I have two kids of my own and I shared that story with them that night. They got all emotional and it’s about a boy they’ve never even met.”
Susan Michael, senior coordinator, agrees that Levi has accomplished so much and been a role model for other students.
“He has fought a very hard battle and he refuses to give in to what I call a monster. He obviously still has hopes and dreams. When I walked out of there I felt like my life had been enriched. He’s just a delightful young man.”
Begley said that during his 18-year career in education he has never had to present a diploma in this situation.
‘There’s no class you take in college that gets you ready for something like that.”
Levi’s courageousness that inspired the school staff during their brief encounter is something his family has witnessed his whole life. Born weighing a little more than a pound, Baker always has been a fighter, says his grandmother. That spirit led him to karate and then football.
“He was the littlest one on the team. He didn’t care how big he was. He would dive down at their feet and tackle them,” Worthington says.
In addition to participating in organized sports, Levi has loved to hunt, especially with coon dogs. His papaw, Irvin Worthington, has been his hunting and fishing buddy.
“He does everything with his papaw,” Judy Worthington says.
A T-shirt being sold to benefit his family and help with medical expenses shows a tree with branches in the shape of a cross and two coon dogs at the foot. The front says, “Levi’s Support Team” and “Like a coonhound running a coon, he never gives up.” The word Up is in the center of inspirational speech: “Keep Up your faith, Never give Up your hope and Always look Up to God.”
The T-shirts are available from Levi’s aunt, Tammy Worthington, for $15, with proceeds going toward his expenses. She can be contacted at (859) 319-5900. The family also has an account at PBK bank to benefit Levi’s family. His mother, who is a nurse, has been unable to work during his treatments.
The family realizes that school officials allowed Levi to accomplish his dream of graduating and they plan to continue to sell the shirt to encourage others battling cancer.
“We want other cancer patients to know you can still do stuff.”
Donations for the Levi Baker Cancer Fund are being accepted at People’s Bank, 1001 Hustonville Road, Danville. The bank also has branches in Junction City, Hustonville,