Columnist

Golf outing in boy's memory helps those fighting cancer

 
 
Published: 9/29/2007 12:32 AM

Crone Middle School teacher Charlie Lantz was one of Kevin Meyer's sixth-grade teachers six years ago.

Five years ago, he coached Kevin in track and was amazed at the boy's athletic ability.

"I never saw a kid long jump and high jump like him," Lantz said.

Not long after that season, Kevin was diagnosed with cancer and missed his eighth-grade year at school. Lantz kept informed with Kevin's progress through Nancee Furlan, a physical education teacher at Crone.

Lantz was one of many in the community who mourned Kevin's death at the age of 16 in November 2005. But he never imagined that less than a year later, Kevin's memory would inspire him in his own battle against cancer.

"I thought of him a lot," Lantz said. "A lot of the students I still keep in touch with told me how strong Kevin was and how he never felt sorry for himself and just worked to plow through it. He was absolutely inspirational for me."

Lantz had suffered from painful stomach cramps in the summer of 2006 and his fiance, Dana, a fellow Crone teacher, encouraged him to go to the doctor.

Two weeks before their Aug. 12 wedding, he was diagnosed with a genetic form of cancer. He had surgery to remove nearly half his colon two days after the wedding.

"The doctor said he could wait for the wedding, but not the honeymoon," said Lantz, who missed the first quarter of school last year recuperating.

Cancer won't wait. Keith and Chris Meyer learned that lesson a long time ago. While the loss of their son is always in their minds, alongside that is the heartwarming memory of how the community supported their family after Kevin was diagnosed.

In the two years since Kevin died, Keith and Chris have thought often about returning that gift to the community in some way. Kevin's Gift golf outing is that way.

"We'd talked about it for a while, to do something like this," said Keith, describing Kevin's Gift memorial foundation. "We saw how great everyone was to us -- it's just really neat to see how the community rallies around. It's in Kevin's name, but it's not for us this time."

People have responded enthusiastically to the event, which Keith notes is bittersweet.

"We think about Kevin all the time, but now you're doing more and more talking about it as you contact people and tell the story. It's always good to see old friends and talk to them and see how well Kevin's peers are doing."

Profits from the golf outing Oct. 6 will go to Children's Memorial Hospital, where Kevin was treated, as well as to three local families. The first prefers to keep their story private; the second is the family of Evan Garrett, a Gregory Middle School eighth-grader diagnosed with leukemia in 2003 who has had two stem cell transplants and is in remission; the third is Lantz.

"It's nice to see the community rally around these people," Keith said.

"It's almost more about the thought and the effort than the money. Obviously, you're raising funds -- they have bills -- but when you sit back and think that other people are doing this for you, it's nice. And, maybe, for a short period of time, a little distraction."

At the end of each school year when Crone gives its awards to eighth-graders, Keith and Chris Meyer return to Crone to award the Kevin Meyer award to a deserving student. After the ceremony last spring, Lantz approached the Meyers.

"I thanked them for coming and told them what an inspiration Kevin was to me after what I'd been through -- it was an emotional thing for me to say that to them," said Lantz, who finally got to go on his honeymoon/first anniversary trip to Mexico in August.

Proceeds from the golf outing will help the Lantzes with mounting medical bills, he said, including the constant batteries of tests he must go through every other month.

The golf outing "has been such a blessing," Lantz said. "It is so generous of them to think of me."

Next Saturday's golf outing still has openings for golfers. The event begins with lunch at noon, then a shotgun start at 1:30 and dinner afterward. For details or to register, visit kevinsgift.org.

If you go

What: Kevin's Gift golf outing

Why: Proceeds support Children's Memorial Hospital and three families fighting cancer

When: Noon lunch; shotgun start at 1:30 p.m. Oct. 6

Where: Tamarack Golf Club, 24032 Royal Worlington Drive, Naperville

Cost: $170 per person

Info: kevinsgift.org