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    Giving Back: Thomas Makhoul Scholarship Fund

    “You grow through what you go through” is a motto of Elias Makhoul, Assistant Director of Information Services in Development and Alumni Relations at Lehigh University. He would know—he has grown through a lot over the past several years.


    In July 2018, just hours after a cousin’s birthday party, Elias’ brother, Thomas, died of cardiac arrest. Known as Thunder Tom and The East Side Legend, Thomas was as outgoing as Elias was introverted. He was beloved throughout the East Allentown community for his visits on his bicycle and his schedule of phone calls to keep up with family and friends. Thomas could not go on to college after William Allen High School but always cheered on those who did.


    To celebrate that support and to honor Thomas, Elias and his family founded the Thomas Makhoul Scholarship Fund—and Elias helped complete the IRS nonprofit paperwork from a hospital bed.


    Like Thomas, his mother, and sisters, Elias has inherited a life-threatening heart condition. In May 2019, he learned that his heart was functioning at only five percent capacity and that he would require a transplant. He gave himself one day to absorb the emotional impact, then began looking forward. A heart became available nine days later, and after cardiac rehabilitation and physical therapy, Elias went back to work both at his job and fundraising for the scholarship with his family.


    A senior at William Allen received the first scholarship in 2020, and by 2022, the family has expanded it to include Dieruff High School. Given that Thomas loved to bowl, Elias and his sisters have hosted ThunderBowl and a basket raffle as an annual fundraiser. Elias, who also writes a food blog, received the support of restaurants and local businesses with gift cards and donations. Looking ahead, he hopes that he and his sisters can explore other avenues to raise funds.


    Elias has found joy in his niece, Bowie Thomae, who was born seven weeks after Thomas’ death. He’s also become more outgoing, like Thomas. His motto for making connections the way his brother did: “Open your mind and open your heart.”