West Branch football players raise funds in remembrance of friend | News

West Branch football players raise funds in remembrance of friend | News

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  • December 24, 2022
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ALLPORT –Bonds of friendship continue even at times when buddies are no longer able to be together.

Senior teammates Kyle Kolesar, Sam Fry, Gabe McCamley, Landen Pase and John Stavola made sure their friend Aiden Collar’s memory lived on throughout the West Branch Warriors’ 2022 football season.

Kyle’s mother Kristine Kolesar said the six were very close. “Four of them lived on the same street in Lanse as Aiden. They never forgot about Aiden. When he was sick and wasn’t able to be at school they missed him and on the days he was at school there was a swarm around him. They were so excited to see him.”

Aiden was diagnosed with a brain tumor in 2014 when he was a third grade student at West Branch Elementary School. He passed away Jan. 10, 2016 when the six were fifth graders.

The remaining five wanted to ensure Aiden is never forgotten.

“He was so young. They don’t know whether he would have played football or not,” Kristine Kolesar said, adding it was important to them Aiden was included in their activities.

The five arranged for a small T-shirt emblazoned with the words, Aiden’s Army, created in support of Aiden’s battle with cancer to be included in the Warriors’ official team photo.

They also raised funds to support Aiden’s mother, Mycke Lannen, in a project she does each year in November to purchase gift cards for patients at the Brain Trauma Center at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital in Ohio where Aiden was a patient.

Kristine Kolesar said each year, Lannen asks her family and friends to consider making a donation to the project she calls, “Christmas Wish for Aiden.”

With the funds, she purchases gift cards that are given to the parents of hospital patients. “They are used to allow the parents to have a meal at a restaurant or purchase some gifts for Christmas,” she explained.

Kolesar said the five discussed what they could do to raise money for Lannen’s project. She said she told the young men contributing to the project would be a great way to honor their friend. “I thought they could raise money so Aiden’s mother could send an extra couple of gift cards. We discussed how they could raise funds and they decided to have 50/50 raffles and donation cans.”

At each elementary, junior high and junior varsity game, Kyle Kolesar, Stavola, Fry, McCamley and Pase or their families and friends sold raffle tickets. They also placed donation cans in both Warriors’ concession stands operated by the football and band boosters.

Those attending the games were very enthusiastic about supporting their effort and a total of $1,200 was raised during the 2022 football season.

A check was presented to Lannen on Oct. 28 during Senior Night recognition at the last home football game.

Earlier that day, the players visited Lannen’s home where there is a memorial garden for Aiden and they placed flowers there.

“Aiden was our friend. We didn’t want him to be forgotten,” Kyle Kolesar said.

Lannen said, “One of my biggest fears is that people will forget that Aiden existed. These five boys, Gabe, Sam, Kyle, John and Landen, put my fear to rest. Aiden was included in the football poster, they put out collections cans and sold 50/50 tickets to donate to the gift card drive. They came down to our house before the (senior night) game and put flowers on Aiden’s pond. These boys did more than I could have possibly imagined and I am eternally grateful. They are wonderful young men and I’m sad that I didn’t get the chance to get to know them as Aiden’s friends as they grew up. They have made my heart happy and I love them for that.”

Kyle Kolesar continued the remembrance project by collecting funds from his family and friends to purchase gifts donated to Penn Highlands Clearfield. They will be given to patients who have to spend the Christmas holidays in the hospital and to children who are brought to the emergency room.

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