Schaumburg firefighter Mike Solberg said he never felt alone, not once, since his medical ordeal began.
"From the moment this started, I was never alone," Solberg said. "The moment the department knew about it, my family instantly expanded to 120."
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On Sunday, Solberg's family expanded again to include an estimated 700 to 800 people, many of them firefighters who came to support him during a massive fundraiser at John Barleycorn in Schaumburg.
Solberg, 32, joined Schaumburg's fire department Oct. 12. On Nov. 2, he underwent surgery to remove a grade four brain cancer tumor, an advanced malignancy known as glioblastoma.
"I'm overwhelmed," Solberg said. "I'm really touched by all this support."
For a $5 admittance fee, supporters flooded the second floor of John Barleycorn to watch the Chicago Bears take on the Green Bay Packers on big-screen TVs while contributing to a fund for Solberg, his wife, Maureen, and their 21-month-old daughter, Emma.
"John Barleycorn executives waived all rental fees and donated all the audiovisual equipment, and are giving us a percentage of the drink sales," said Jeanine Kubalewski, a Schaumburg firefighter who partnered with another Schaumburg firefighter, Cheryl Seibert, to organize the fundraiser.
"U.S. Foods donated all the food. Others donated raffle items and silent auctions items. It's just awesome how everyone has come together to stand behind this family."
Kubalewski, a Schaumburg High School graduate, originally wanted to enter the military, but a firefighting class at Harper College in Palatine changed her mind.
"This was what I wanted to do, to help people," she said. "When we heard about Mike's situation, Cheryl and I wanted to do something to help them with medical bills. This is just awesome!"
Seibert said she was impressed with the great turnout Sunday.
"One thing was that I think Barleycorn underestimated the bar demand," Kubalewski said. "The bartenders have been running around crazy all day."
If you'd like to donate to the Solbergs, contact Seibert at (847) 323-8022 or Kubalewski at (847) 401-0432.