Marmion freshman Brock Krueger doesn't need the month of October to be aware of breast cancer's impact.
His grandmother, Cynthia Carroll, was diagnosed with breast cancer at age 34. She died at 54, before Krueger was born, but he understood its affect.
"I never got to meet her, but it had a huge impact on my mom (Crystal) and sister (Brienna, a St. Charles North graduate).
"It was tough on them.
This being National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, however, the 14-year-old quarterback of Marmion's freshman football team decided to do something.
"I'd see the guys in the NFL wearing pink and I thought it was pretty cool, and I wanted to bring it to our school, Krueger said.
He and his mother approached Cadets varsity football coach Dan Thorpe with their fundraising and awareness ideas. Thorpe said the team often is asked to contribute time or money toward causes, so he's devised a recourse put it to a vote by the seniors, headed by varsity captains T.J. Lally, Mike Carbonara, Graham Glasgow and Jake Winkel.
The result of Krueger's proposal? The likes of the 6-foot-7, 295-pound Glasgow and 6-3, 275 Winkel are wearing pink undershirts, knee socks, wrist bands, and pink ribbon helmet decals.
Thorpe describes this as business as usual.
"Our students are required to do service hours, 15 service hours, but we'll have kids with 70 service hours, the coach said. "Stepping up to the plate to serve the unfortunate is a typical day at Marmion.
During this Saturday's homecoming game, 1 p.m. against Walther Lutheran, and the 7:30 p.m. Oct. 15 regular-season Fichtel Field finale against Chicago Christian, "Strength in Numbers breast cancer awareness bracelets, T-shirts and raffle tickets will be sold with proceeds going to the Living Well Cancer Resource Center in Geneva.
In Monday's 33-0 freshman win over Walther Lutheran, Krueger sported a pink glove, a pink towel and a pink arm band. Five other teammates later expressed their interest in acquiring similar gloves.
That may indicate trendy fashion sense, but since Brock and Crystal Krueger have started this project they've been inundated by support and correspondence from others impacted by breast cancer. He hopes this becomes an annual tradition at Marmion long after he graduates.
"You know, it's not just you, Brock said. "Everyone's affected in some way.
Having Marmion's "top dogs on his side, wearing pink, certainly enhances Krueger's credibility as he walks Marmion's hallways. Yet that's small potatoes compared to honoring his grandmother and striking a blow against the disease that abbreviated her life.
"I thought this would be a really great way to show her, hey, This is what I'm doing, Krueger said, "and to kind of make my family proud.
Speaking of pink pride...
Geneva senior Kyle Bender made a splash not only with his Oct. 2 front-page photo in the Daily Herald, returning a punt in the Vikings' 40-21 win over Batavia, but also with his grandmother, Teri Jordan of Naperville.
The pink gloves he was wearing were meant for her. She survived a 2001 bout with breast cancer and is in remission from non-Hodgkins lymphoma. Her last chemotherapy treatment was in June.
Others also were touched. Whether seeing Bender live or in the paper his sartorial salute drew thanks from people of all ages including one of his former teachers who had developed breast cancer.
Bender, a defensive back in football and an infielder and pitcher in baseball, has seen the disease ravage his family. Five of his relatives have had cancer, two have died. His grandfather, Lynol Jordan, a 1967 Geneva graduate and a Vietnam veteran, developed lung cancer as a result of the Agent Orange defoliant and died in 2006.
Teri Jordan said, "It's so important to me that people acknowledge the fact that we need to get more cancer research, and that's his way of acknowledging me and everybody in my family who's been touched by breast cancer.
Bender initially considered a pink wristband or pink tape. A teammate suggested gloves and he changed course. The idea was cleared by defensive backs coach (and Geneva athletic director) Jim Kafer and head coach Rob Wicinski.
For awhile it seemed the whole team was going to join in. When Bender broke out the pink-and-white mitts in practice Sept. 30 20 percent of the cost going to Susan G. Komen for the Cure he was the only one.
"I got a lot of responses like, 'Dang, I should have got them,' he said.
Bender doesn't see it as a fashion statement.
"Some people just think the fact that it's football and the pros are doing it, so you're doing it that's really not why I'm doing it, he said. "I've been like that pretty much my whole life, because my grandma was diagnosed when I was eight. It's been second nature to me.
Bender has wanted to be a firefighter "for a long time. He wears a pink firefighter shirt to his daily Fire Science class at Fox Valley Career Center in Maple Park. Last summer he had an internship with the Geneva Fire Department.
"The thing is, you always hear about the bad things that kids do, and he's such a good kid, said Teri Jordan, who was busy making pink referee flags IHSA officials were buying at $10 a pop. All proceeds went to the American Cancer Society.
"It's just an honor to be his grandmother, she said. "I love bragging about him, because he's just a good kid.
Different shade of awareness
It's the color purple, not pink, that will be featured at the 2010 Saints Splash for Lupus, 3 p.m. Saturday at St. Charles North, a 9-team swimming and diving meet hosted by St. Charles East. (The Saints' usual home, Norris Aquatic Center, is undergoing reconstruction for a new air filtration system; St. Charles North, hosting a morning meet, is also promoting the cause.)
The Splash is in its second year, an effort emphasized by coach Joe Cabel. The 2009 fundraiser sent $1,100 to the American Cancer Society, but after the mother of former St. Charles East swimmer Juliet Suess took ill from lupus and passed away after the season, this year's focus shifted toward raising funds for the Illinois Chapter of the Lupus Foundation of America.
"They're a close-knit group of girls, so when something happens to one of them they really take it to heart, said Jeanine Saunders, mother of sophomore sprinter Hannah Saunders, who is helping produce the Splash with Cabel and team parent representative Lynn Tauer, mother of swimmers Alyce and Andrea.
More than 300 lime green swim caps and 250 T-shirts decorated with a purple butterfly design by Melissa Chapko, whose daughter Nicole is on the team, will be sold. Some of the proceeds from concessions also will go to the Lupus Foundation.
Jeanine Saunders said 1.5 million Americans and 5 million people worldwide have lupus, an autoimmune disease that presently has no cure. Ninety percent of those with it are women, she said.
"Overall, there's a general desire to help, an eagerness and a willingness to do whatever they can to help, she said about the Saints swimmers. "Especially since they knew Nancy Suess, they definitely feel connected to the cause.