By Anne Marie Gerhardt
When their long-time, close friend Pete Schaller was first diagnosed with stage 4 prostate cancer in late 2010, it hit Chuck and Karen Cranford of Wauconda hard. The Cranford's considered Pete along with his wife and two children just like family. The Cranford's 14-year old son Chase even called him 'Uncle Pete'.
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"Chuck went to high school with Pete and played sports with him. I met him in college and we haven't lived more than a 1/2 mile from each other for the last 15 years," said Karen.
Despite the pain of seeing their once healthy, active friend suffer, it was Pete's determination and courage to live that inspired the Cranfords to face his illness and to do something to give back. "It was Chase's idea to do something right away to help Uncle Pete," said Karen.
With the help of his mother, Chase organized a Relay for Life team in honor of him. "We thought we would have a small team of about 5 and we ended up with 25," said Karen. "Pete even was able to join us. It was very special."
"The last two years we've raised over $4,000 for the Relay for Life," said Chase who rallied his younger brother Garrett along with neighbors and friends to help out. "My family and friends have been a huge part of this. Especially the Krusinski's. The first year their girls even had lemonade stand to raise money."
After a courageous fight, Pete lost his battle with prostate cancer in January 2012. In their grief, Chase wanted to do even more. "After Uncle Pete passed away we wanted to find a way to make an even greater difference," said Chase. "That's is why we formed the Helping UP Foundation to honor his memory."
The Helping UP Foundation raises money to help families struggling emotionally and financially with cancer. "Driving to soccer practice one day we were trying to think of a name for the foundation," said Karen. "I came up with 'helping' and Chase thought of 'UP' which stands for Uncle Pete."
Old high school friend, Brian Hallenborg and Pete were reacquainted through Facebook before he got sick. "He was complaining of a back pain and I encouraged him to go to the doctor," said Brian who supported him throughout his battle with cancer.
Brian has joined the Cranfords and is helping to organize the foundation's first Schaller Scramble golf outing on August 13, 2012. "My main motivation is Pete's two boys' future and to make sure they have everything they need," said Brian. "We are helping several other families too and we hope this spreads and gets bigger so we can help even more people."
The Cranfords are hoping the foundation grows too in memory of their dear friend. "It happened all so very fast. They thought Pete was going to beat it," said Karen about the cancer. "While we were by the Schaller's side, I felt like there was nothing I could do. This (the foundation) is the only way I know how to keep his memory alive in a positive way."
Many of Pete's friends are also joining the cause to support the foundation. "I think Pete would be speechless. He would be overwhelmed as I am overwhelmed by all the people who are stepping up and giving to this," said Brian. More future events are planned including a casino night and the second annual golf outing in 2013.
The Schaller Scramble will be held at Countryside Golf Course, 20800 W. Hawley St., Mundelein, IL on Monday, August 13, 2012 with registration starting at 11am and a 12:30pm shotgun start. Cocktails and dinner will be held from 6-8pm with special music, raffles and prizes. To register and for more information visit and www.helpingupfoundation.org.