Walk for Collin students step up for care
Stephanie Potts (right), 14, a Northbrook Junior High School eighth-grader, starts the May 18 Walk for Collin (Wehr) via piggyback ride by classmate Kate Seno.| Karie Angell Luc~for Sun-Times Media
Updated: July 1, 2012 12:57PM
About 600 Northbrook Junior High School students Friday became the legs for Collin Wehr, who, for now, cannot walk on his own.
Collin, a Shabonee School fifth-grader, is recovering from chemotherapy for medulloblastoma, a brainstem tumor. Collin has endured surgeries, radiation, a spinal fusion and hearing loss.
And at the Walk for Collin on a sunny 70-degree day, a village reached out, through students who pledged to walk 60 minutes.
Collin, who could not attend this special day, inspires others by his journey.
“Thanks for staying on the path,” said Wendy Concklin, Northbrook Junior High School health instructor and NBJH student council faculty co-sponsor with drama teacher, David Downing.
Concklin stood near the Northbrook Park District Meadowhill pool building, encouraging walkers.
“I like that green!’ she said, of neon “The Green Machine” T-shirts, worn by some for Collin’s cause.
“Our student council executive board has shown tremendous leadership. I’m just amazed with this group.”
To date, approximately $6,000 has been raised, “but I guarantee we’ll have $7,000 by the year’s end (school year 2011-12),” said Concklin.
The money will offset medical bills not covered by the health insurance.
Four students in green, Shayna Lutz, 14, Olivia Tritsis, 14, Sam Wetzel, 13, and Lily Jaeger, 14, discussed Collin.
“Your heart,” said Sam, pounding his chest with his right hand, referring to red, the complimentary color to green.
“And green is the color of the shirt,” added Lily.
“And it’s like your heart beats as one,” said Olivia.
Concklin acknowledged Shayna, student council president.
“She’s the person who nominated Collin as our charity of choice,” said Concklin.
Many walkers said they have never met Collin.
“I don’t know him,” said Eleanor Mitchell, 13, “but my mom (Connie) knows somebody whose son is really good friends with him.”
Said Sarah Comer, 14: “(Collin’s) a cute little kid who’s had to go through much and it’s just touching he’s still being a little kid even though he has cancer.”
In Oct. 2009, Collin, rarely ill, began experiencing flu-like symptoms. His parents Ray and Joan Wehr, including his sister Ramsay, accompanied Collin each step after he was admitted to Children’s Memorial Hospital.
His public story unfolded as neighbors organized fundraisers. A Marcello’s Northbrook October event was emceed by the tuxedoed Ron Bernardi of Sunset Foods.
Collin was named honorary Glenbrook North High School varsity football captain last fall and was included in the Northbrook Jr. Spartans Football League youth feeder league roster.
In a joint statement issued by Joan and Ray Wehr: “We continue to be amazed at the support and spirit that Northbrook continues to hold for our son. Collin is soldiering on.”
Collin receives chemotherapy every two weeks at Children’s Memorial Hospital, and “every other Thursday, we head down for four to six hours of drugs with a once a month follow up of outpatient chemo that lasts 14 days.”
Adds Collin’s parents: “While this sounds horrific, Collin is actually holding his own.
“His strength has increased enough that his therapists are working to get him walking on his own.
“To accomplish that,” said his parents, “he is wearing actual casts on both his ankles to stretch his ligaments in preparation for aerobic strength training to start hopefully in early June.”
June 1 is Collin’s next MRI and “his last test showed some positive gains,” said his parents.
“We are hoping for more this time.
“Last year our focus was on getting from one MRI test to the next, every two months, our focus now is more long term looking out over the summer and even, dare we say, into the fall.”
Collin was selected as Wish ambassador at a May 12 Make-A-Wish Ball.
“He met Billie Bush and David Spade, whom he called Richard (from the movie ‘Tommy Boy’) which got his usual laugh,” said his parents.
Collin was photographed with Chicago Bears lineman Israel Idonije.
“It was a very positive night as the gala showed Collin’s Wish video and photos from his night at GBN’s football game.”
Said Robin Bear, family spokesperson who organized fundraisers with numerous volunteers: “The work done by Wendy (Concklin), staff members and, most of all, the amazing students who have worked so hard to support Collin and his family, is beyond words.
“There is nothing more meaningful than to see the smile Collin gets when we tell him about all of the events being done in his honor.”
Concluded Ray and Joan Wehr: “Thank you for all your help and support.
“We are truly amazed at what our son means to so many wonderful people.”