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Tackling cancer part of game plan

Father and son Steve, right, and Trevor Solem will be on opposing sidelines Friday night when the BOLD Warriors host the Minnewaska Lakers in a prep football game, but will share a common cause. Keshia Solem photo

The emotions will run as high as the corn in the adjacent fields Friday evening, at the stadium behind the high school in Olivia, when the Minnewaska Lakers take on the hometown BOLD Warriors.

It’s a father and son on opposite sidelines. It’s a fundraiser, too, for Randy Shaver’s Tackle Cancer campaign to raise awareness and money for cancer research and patient aid.

Steve Solem, head coach of the Warriors (0-1), would like to run up the score on the Lakers (1-0), their West Central South rival. Certainly not to embarrass the visitors but each BOLD touchdown will mean $1,000 for the family of Justin Lothert, a former player stricken with cancer. The cash will come from the celebrated Tim Orth Foundation, which aids youth dealing with financial burdens of an accident or illness.

Justin, 18, is at the University of Minnesota Hospital undergoing therapy to regain his health and strength so he may continue treatment for several cancers. At 17, he was struck with an inoperable brain cancer (childhood Astrocytoma). He was receiving treatment when a second tumor showed (brain stem glioblastoma).

“He’s a great kid but this has been a tough go,” said Val Serbus, who has helped organize the benefit through the Orth Foundation. “He’s already graduated and wanted to start college at St. John’s. You know, there are health insurance and other programs, but when something like this strikes a family there are so many expenses that are not covered.”

Justin is the son of Mitch and Chris Lothert and he has two younger brothers, Tyler and Derrick.

Steve Solem and his son Trevor also know about teen cancer. Trevor is a cancer survivor and a Lakers assistant coach under head coach Steve Hill. He is in his fourth year coaching and starting his fifth year as a special education teacher at Minnewaska. He’s married to the former Keshia Siems of Lake Lillian, his high school sweetheart.

I visited by phone with Trevor on Tuesday evening. I asked about his head-on meeting with cancer. Here’s what he said:

“I grew up with football and wanted to be a pro football player. I played football and basketball and a little baseball. In the spring of my seventh-grade year, I was diagnosed with Ewing’s Sarcoma (a malignant bone tumor.) It was pretty devastating news. It was in my lower back and pelvis. I had a MRI at the U of M and at 3 a.m. they wanted a second one. They flew in a specialist to operate, since the cancer was on my spine. It was crazy. I had all the treatments — chemo, radiation and bone marrow transplant.

“I was 5-foot-10 in seventh-grade but the chemo affected my growth. I’m still 5-10 and probably lighter than I was then. I was pretty well done with treatments by the next fall, my eighth-grade year, but was, I guess you could say, on the ‘physically unable to play’ list. I was the recipient of Tim Orth scholarships in both my ninth- and 10th-grade year. Now, I want to try and give back.”

After graduation, in 2004, he spent two years at Ridgewater College before getting his four-year degree at St. Cloud State.

Last year Minnewaska held a Tackle Cancer fundraiser, selling 1,000 handkerchiefs donated by American Business Solutions of Glenwood. Trevor said Benson coach Scott Gonnerman, an area rep for Tackle Cancer, helped Minnewaska Area tie into Tackle Cancer, which involved some 130 high schools in 2012.

Friday night, a light lunch will be served at the game with proceeds going to Tackle Cancer. T-shirts will also be sold, if any are left from sales this week at the high school.

Just before kickoff as the National Anthem plays, Lakers and Warriors together will stride to the center of the field carrying an over-sized American Flag symbolizing a united effort in the fight to defeat cancer.

Val Serbus said she has been moved continually by the compassion displayed by the area when misfortune strikes a child: “The love and support is a blessing.”

Rand Middleton
Tribune photographer/videographer. Began working in radio and at weekly newspaper in Munising, Michigan, in 1972. Started parttime at West Central Daily Tribune Sept. 1974. Fulltime news/sports beginning Feb. 1979. Married to Tribune news clerk Donna (Miller) Middleton, formerly of Kerkhoven. 2 grown children. 
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