We’ll step back real quick to take a look at two local opportunities to help folks who have ties to the Huskies sports world.
First, KJR’s “Kare-a-thon” starts Friday morning. All sorts of neat auction items, many to do with Huskies football or hoops, are available. Check them out here.
Second, The Run of Hope is coming Sept. 30. The 5K run and 3K walk is billed as “a special day of events that brings together families and community to raise funds and awareness in support of pediatric brain tumor research at Seattle Children’s Hospital.”
Plus, it’s fun. I’ve done it before and plan on being there this year. A staggering 97 percent of the money raised goes to pediatric brain tumor research. You can donate here.
The link to Washington football for the event is from Jake Locker. He was a big supporter of it and helped get it off the ground after becoming close to a young UW fan who had a brain tumor. Here’s an excerpt from a story I wrote in 2010 about Locker, explaining the special relationship he had with young Kyle Roger:
A summary of Locker’s time at Washington would be incomplete without talking about Kyle.
When Kyle Roger was born in 2001, his aunt, Melissa Willhite, held him and sang “Bow Down to Washington.” When Locker committed to Washington, Aunt Melissa purchased purple No. 10 jerseys for Kyle and his older brother, Nicolas. The family knew Locker was No. 10 at Ferndale High School and took a chance.
Kyle’s mom, Christin, was enrolled at Washington from 1989-92 and witnessed football glory. Her grandmother played golf for Washington in the 1920s and her father attended the school. Christin and crew had football season tickets since.
Bad news came to the Rogers in 2007. Kyle, 6, was diagnosed with a rare brain stem tumor. A spirited, blond-haired boy, he was now in the care of Seattle Children’s Hospital but received radiation treatment at the UW Medical Center. A meeting between Locker and Kyle was brokered. Christin anticipated Locker would spend five minutes greeting her sons, then move on.
Several hours passed and Locker and Kyle were still at it. They migrated from the initial meeting spot outside of Husky Stadium down to the field. They threw the ball and practiced field goals. Locker brought Kyle and Nicolas into the tunnel to teach them how to bark mean. Problem was, giggling overpowered the attempted menace.
That day, Locker began one of his enduring UW relationships. Kyle showed Locker where his seats were, and Locker promised to point when he scored his first touchdown. After Locker crossed the goal line with 2:48 remaining in the second quarter of the 2007 opener against Syracuse, up went his right index finger in Kyle’s direction from across the country. Locker called post-game to be sure Kyle noticed.
As their relationship grew, Kyle’s health worsened. Locker would visit Children’s Hospital and play video games against Kyle while the family waited for test results, or while Kyle was between multiple appointments. The majority of their showdowns came while playing “Mario Kart.” Kyle was losing his health, but not his savvy, knowing he had a shot at victory when this was the game of choice.
When the meeting was not at a medical facility, the pair went for ice cream or met at the stadium. Their final excursion was at the Baskin-Robbins in the U District in 2009. There would be no more running, woofing or field goals.
Kyle, now 8, was in a wheelchair. He could not walk, hear or speak. For some time, he communicated through black marker on a whiteboard. At this point, swallowing was also difficult, making the genial consumption of ice cream a challenge.
When Kyle found out they were going to see Locker, he worried how he would look.
“Kyle didn’t want to go because he didn’t want Jake to see him the way he was,” Christin said. “I think he thought it would make a difference somehow.”
It had for others. As Kyle’s tumor began to win, people at times had a hard time being around him. Not Locker.
Kyle insisted on ditching his wheelchair. Christin held him by his armpits on the way into the store as he attempted to use his legs for the first time in weeks.
Locker held Kyle up for around an hour and a half. Kyle teased Locker via whiteboard salvos while downing his double scoop of cookies and cream and rainbow sherbet. He also finished off Locker’s mint chocolate milkshake.
“For me, that was the time that really epitomized how much Kyle meant to Jake,” Christin said. “Within a few minutes, Kyle realized it wasn’t really what he looked like on the outside, it was how he looked on the inside.
“It may not be anything that stood out to (Locker) the way it did to a mom sitting there watching.”
Kyle died three weeks later.
Since, Locker has used the media to promote the Run of Hope, a fundraiser for pediatric brain tumor research. About six hours after arriving home from stunning USC in early October, Locker was in a hat and jeans under a white tarp at Seattle’s Seward Park. A hand-written sign, “Jake Locker for Run of Hope,” hung over his head.
The Sunday after the Nebraska debacle, Locker was on live TV talking up the race despite being freed of his obligation by Christin and the sports anchor.
Locker maintained his relationship with Nicolas and the Roger family. Christin remains thankful for the time Locker spent, despite seeming to have little available. After getting to know him, she says continuation of the relationship is no surprise.
“He’s not obligated to do it,” Christin said. “It’s sad that it’s surprising. The only reason it’s surprising is that more people don’t do that.”
So, there you have it. We’ll get back to sports later today.