Cancer Survivor First Met Life-Saving Stem Cell Donor for First Time During the Disney Wine & Dine Half Marathon Weekend at Walt Disney World

Canadian runner, Boyd Dunleavey, has survived Leukemia twice and also completed the half marathon! He participated in the Disney Wine & Dine Half Marathon at Walt Disney World this past weekend. To make this amazing moment even more special, there was someone special waiting for him at the finish line with his medal. It was Nathan Barnes, who is also the person who donated the stem cells which were used in Boyd’s treatments.

According to Disney Parks Blog, “Dunleavey was diagnosed in 2011 with a rare blood cancer – acute myeloid Leukemia – and given a 10 percent chance of surviving more than a few months without a stem cell transplant from a donor outside of his family. After Dunleavey endured a year of treatments and a cancer relapse in February 2012, doctors identified Barnes as a suitable stem cell donor. The challenge? Barnes was in Japan, stationed there as a gunners’ mate in the US Navy. But, finally, in May 2012, Dunleavey had the life-saving stem cell transplant.”

“When we found out it was a gentleman named Nathan, it was incredible,” said Dunleavey. “Our middle son’s name is Nathan, and it means ‘Gift of God.’”

Dunleavey began to run as part of the recovery and then it became a passion for him. He has completed in a variety of different marathon and half marathon events.

“I never would have run a marathon without Disney,” Dunleavey said. “January 2015 was my first, during the Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend. I’ve run the marathon twice, multiple virtual races, four half marathons, and several 10Ks. The runDisney community is fantastic!”

It was amazing for Dunleavey and his family to meet the man who saved his life!

“I had no idea you could actually feel this good about something,” Barnes said about their meeting, even before presenting Dunleavey with his medal for running 13.1 miles through Walt Disney World Resort.

“My motto is ‘never lose hope’” Dunleavey said. “Life is a special gift. We were told that with the stem cell transplant, my chances of living five years were only 30 percent. This is Year 7! Never lose hope.” 

Check out this amazing video:

I don’t know about you, but I need tissues after that! We wish Boyd continued success in his recovery!

Photo and Source Credit: Disney Parks Blog

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About Christy Caby

I am a diehard Disney fanatic! I fell in love with all things Disney from an early age and that only increased once I first visited Walt Disney World! It led me to complete a yearlong Disney College Program working at merchandise locations within Disney’s Hollywood Studios (Disney-MGM Studios at that time) and I worked for Disney Parks & Resorts Technology in Project/Program Management. Now I get to write about Disney and help others plan their magical vacations! Disney holds a special place in the hearts of my entire family as my husband proposed there, we honeymooned there, took trips while pregnant with each of my boys and have visited with them many, many times from 8 weeks old through now. One of my favorite memories from each trip is always the look on my kids’ faces the first time they see the castle. I’d love to help you plan your magical vacation! Request a free quote at or look for me on Facebook at Have a magical day!