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Published: Thursday, 11/10/2011 - Updated: 2 years ago

Rossford holds vigil for ill student-athlete

BY GABRIELLE RUSSON
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Students from left: A.J. Santellana, Lyndsey Skala, Noah Asmus, and C.J. Ball, light candles during a vigil for Rossford High School junior Kerry Keller who is battling cancer. Students from left: A.J. Santellana, Lyndsey Skala, Noah Asmus, and C.J. Ball, light candles during a vigil for Rossford High School junior Kerry Keller who is battling cancer.
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Even when he was checked into the hospital or felt sick from cancer treatments, Kerry Keller still came back and watched his teammates play football on Friday nights in Rossford.

His throat hurt, so it was hard for the 17-year-old to cheer too loud. And sometimes he became exhausted and left the game early.

But for Kerry, it was a chance to show support for his Rossford High School team as he sat on the sidelines in a folding chair or visited with his friends in the locker room.

"It motivated us to play better and be thankful for what we have and what we can do," said his best friend, Dakota Fargo, who plays on the team. "Honestly, he really didn't need to talk much."

Kerry, a Rossford junior, was diagnosed this year with a rare, inoperable form of brain cancer in his sinus cavity.

This week, Kerry was hospitalized in the intensive care unit at the University of Michigan hospital after he had an unexplainable seizure and then suffered other medical complications.

His teammates, friends, and others in the community held a candlelight vigil Wednesday night for him at the high school.

"There truly is power in prayer," said close family friend Kelly Rossler, who organized the gathering.

Kerry Keller. Kerry Keller.
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Mrs. Rossler, the school's cheerleading coach, said Kerry's condition has since improved and stabilized after he went into cardiac arrest at the hospital Tuesday. It's unclear how long Kerry will be in the hospital, but he is more alert and talking, she said Wednesday.

Before his cancer diagnosis, the bubbly teenager was known as a versatile athlete — a "monster," as Dakota described him — who played football, basketball, and tennis.

"I don't know how many offensive linemen also play tennis. I'd say you could count them on one hand," said his varsity football coach, Todd Drusback. "He liked all the sports."

But something physically wasn't right with the muscular student athlete.

A school nurse was concerned about a bump growing on his neck. Kerry also lost the ability to taste and smell.

Around May, he was diagnosed with brain cancer, Mrs. Rossler said.

The diagnosis led to radiation treatment and chemotherapy, which made Kerry lose weight and caused his hair to fall out.

Kerry tried keeping up on his studies this year by following classroom lectures on his laptop.

Meanwhile, his mother, Jackie Huffman, blogged about the hospital visits and procedures involving frightening-sounding medical terms. She wrote updates on how Kerry was doing, such as when he couldn't swallow food or when he felt better.

Mrs. Huffman also thanked community members for their kindness to her family, which includes Kerry's five siblings, his stepfather, Rex Huffman, and his father, Kevin Keller.

"The blessings never end for us, we have the most wonderful friends and family ever, you all are a perfect blend of comfort and hope to us, thank you," she wrote Sept. 15.

The community support was constant this year.

Family friend Luann Kralovic, left, gives Katie Keller, Kerry Keller's sister, a hug after a vigil for the Rossford High School junior who is battling cancer. Family friend Luann Kralovic, left, gives Katie Keller, Kerry Keller's sister, a hug after a vigil for the Rossford High School junior who is battling cancer.
THE BLADE/AMY E. VOIGT Enlarge | Buy This Photo

Boys shaved their heads or dyed their hair blue — Kerry's favorite color — at a fund-raiser at a local hair salon.

The high school sold T-shirts to be worn at a volleyball game in support of Kerry.

On Oct. 3, Kerry's 17th birthday, people walked 17 laps as part of a walkathon to raise more money.

Dakota did his part, too. He sold $2 blue rubber bracelets that said "Kerry's Comrades," earning about $1,000 for Kerry's family.

"He's always there for you," Dakota said about his friend. "That's why a lot of people are there for him."

Contact Gabrielle Russon at: grusson@theblade.com or 419-724-6026.



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