Cloverbelt Conference bands together against pediatric cancer
By Kris Leonhardt
OWEN — During the Dec. 20 boys basketball matchup between the Marshfield Columbus Catholic Dons and the Owen-Withee Blackhawks in Owen, schools in the Cloverbelt Conference East Division kicked off a series of fundraising events that will benefit the Marshfield Clinic pediatric oncology department and Owen-Withee’s Maki family.
The Cloverbelt Conquers Cancer fundraising initiative is the vision of Columbus student Ryan Dieringer, who along with Owen-Withee’s Will Maki, was diagnosed with a form of pediatric cancer last year.
“Ryan was diagnosed in April of 2015 with Ewing’s sarcoma. It is a rare pediatric bone cancer that affects only 250 kids a year,” said Becky Dieringer, Ryan’s mother. “Shortly after that, I think in July of 2015, Will Maki was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, another pediatric bone cancer, so once you think it is rare, it is very odd to see two in the same conference that are both battling cancer.
“Being that it is rare, we have gotten to know each other very well, and our communities have really bonded over that fact that we are trying to combat pediatric cancer.”
While Ryan’s cancer is currently in remission, Maki continues his ongoing battle against the rare disease.
“Ryan is the reason we are involved as we are so grateful for the care he received,” said Becky. “It was very important to him to organize a fundraiser and give back to the Marshfield Clinic and to help other families as they experience the unimaginable.”
Becky and her husband Derek joined together with other parents and community members from Marshfield and Owen-Withee as well as a Marshfield Clinic donor relations coordinator to form a committee to give back.
“We decided that we wanted to raise awareness for pediatric cancer. How this was born was last year we sponsored Hoops for Hope, and it was a one-time event when Owen-Withee came to Columbus because both of our schools had been touched by pediatric cancer.
“So this year we decided to think about how can we make this bigger and better, and that is where the Cloverbelt Conquers Cancer came out of. This way we are going to go school by school, having fundraisers and raising awareness for (pediatric) cancer.”
Each of the nine schools in the conference will organize its own unique event to help raise funds in the scheduled boys basketball matchups.
“There are some things that will travel from site to site, starting with our four different blind auction items,” explained Becky. “The other thing that is going to be available is a Cancer Survivors Wall or Warrior Wall. So if you want for a $5 donation, you can put the person you want to recognize on the square.”
The funds raised from the event will be split equally between the Marshfield Clinic Oncology Department and the Maki family.
“When we originally started, 100 percent of the proceeds were going to the pediatric oncology department in Marshfield,” said committee member Kris Karaba. “Then Ryan in a very profound moment said, ‘I think we need to take care of our own first.’
“Considering (that) Will was still battling (cancer), that was Ryan’s wish to have the funds go toward the Maki family as well, so it is a 50-50 split.”
To donate or to find out about future events, visit the Cloverbelt Conquers Cancer Facebook page at facebook.com/CloverbeltConquersCancer.