|Benefit raises funds and spirits for student|
|Written by Scott Gleeson, Daily Vidette Sports Editor|
|Monday, 12 April 2010 00:05|
Matt Heinzmann is too tough to cry.
“I’m usually not one to show emotion,” he says. “I don’t want people to think I’m a wimp.”
Heinzmann’s family, friends and co-workers, however, are not nearly as tough.
Tears streamed down hundreds of faces Saturday afternoon outside of the Illinois State Recreation Building, as a check for $11,000 was presented to Heinzmann and his family.
The fund-raising event called, “Hope for Heinzmann,” was hosted by Illinois State’s Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity.
Those in attendance Saturday paid $15 for a fun-filled afternoon of food, raffle prizes, a bags tournament and music presented by DJ Fey. Proceeds went directly to the Heinzmann family. Out of the $11,000, over $2,000 was raised by Heinzmann’s high school.
But the hope Heinzmann received on a sunny Saturday afternoon did not come from the life-sized check to support the mounting medical bills associated with the rare form of brain cancer Heinzmann has endured in his spinal cord over the last four months.
The hope came from the mass of friends and family that piled into Recreations Services’ backyard.
It came from Illinois State University President Al Bowman making a special appearance.
It came from his fraternity brothers shaving their heads to support him throughout his chemotherapy treatment.
“This shoots straight through to the heart,” Heinzmann said, inclined under a tree with a knee brace and cane. “It’s been pretty emotional. Just seeing everybody here, it almost brings a tear to your eye to see how much everyone cares about me. I’ve been trying to hold the [tears] back.
“I have the best set of friends that anyone could ever ask for. This, today, is one of the best experiences of my life.”
Heinzmann was hard pressed to contain his emotion, describing the day as “perfect.” His fraternity brothers were in full agreement.
“Everything went perfect,” Sheamus Murphy, Sig Ep social chairman, said. “We couldn’t have asked for a better turnout. This is what a fraternity is all about—having each other’s backs. I’m sure he would have done the same for us.”
Heinzmann, an employee for Recreation Services, was grateful for the support from his co-workers and superiors.
“Matt is a part of our family,” Dawn Sanner, Recreation Services executive director said. “He’s setting such a great example for all students. This outpouring of support has been amazing. If he didn’t cry, he might be the only one. I’m glad I’m wearing sunglasses because I’ve cried more than once.”
Nearly every fraternity member as well as Recreation Services co-workers and professional staff members stood in line to shave their heads to commemorate Matt’s struggle.
“You get up to that barber chair and you’re not [losing your hair] for just Matt, but for everyone that you could possibly know of that could have gone through this,” Recreation Services graduate assistant Dan Goodwin said.
“This [event] was a tremendous success. It says a lot about the students here on campus. This is a prime example that when you get a group of students together, you can do anything.”
Heinzmann is currently halfway through a series of radiation and chemotherapy.
After he finishes treatment on May 3, he will have a two-week vacation period before getting an infusion of chemotherapy drugs for the next year. Arrangements have already been made for Matt to take the Amtrak from Bloomington-Normal to St. Louis to receive chemotherapy.
“We have every expectation that he’ll be a full-time student next semester,” Joe Heinzmann, Matt’s father, said.
“Matthew has dealt with everything in a positive way and taken everything the doctors have thrown at him. He’s always been a happy guy but he’s spent the last couple of months at home. He needs to be around his friends.”
Heinzmann said he has had “the best teacher” throughout his fight for cancer in the form of his mother, who is a 20-year breast cancer survivor.
“I was pregnant with Matthew eight-and-a-half months when I had my first breast removed and Matthew was delivered two weeks later,” Maggie Heinzmann, Matt’s mother said.
“I cried more with his cancer [diagnosis] than I did with my own. But I’ve always said cancer has made me stronger and I expect that to be the same for him.”
Throughout his treatment, Heinzmann has kept his spirits high, never letting his ordeal wipe the smile from his face.
“There’s no real reason to frown,” Heinzmann said.
“That’s the best way to fight every battle is to have a positive attitude and know that, in the end, everything is going to be OK.”