St. Charles schools team up for great cause
More photos Hide photos
Scout Cantrell loved pink, so on the night of the girls swimming season that is for Scout as much as it is about Scout, pink is the only color that matters.
That night was Thursday, the fourth year St. Charles' girls swim teams combined to raise money for the For Scout Foundation -- a foundation which formed after the sudden death of pink-loving Scout in 2014 at 9-years-old. The host Saints and visiting North Stars both wore pink caps. Pink tie-died T-shirts with the slogan "Saints and Stars making the world a little bit better place" were everywhere.
So it was beyond appropriate that Scout's older sister Kate -- a St. Charles North senior -- churned through the anchor leg of her team's 400-yard freestyle relay -- as she had earlier done in the 200 freestyle relay.
"I had tears in my eyes," Kate Cantrell said. "I said to myself, 'this is it. It's the last East meet.' Scout means the world to me and this meet means the world to me."
That Kate Cantrell used the present tense to refer to her sister is not a mistake.
"I still talk to her every day, on my way to swim practice, at 5:15 in the morning when it's just her and me in the car," Kate Cantrell said.
Times and results were kept at the meet, but team scores weren't announced, emphasizing again the togetherness that occurs on this night. St. Charles North won the meet 124-62.
"The two schools having an event like this is really important in the swimming community in this town. This is an awesome community to be from," St. Charles North coach Rob Rooney said.
One of the impacts of the For Scout Foundation is that the crosstown swimming rivalry has become much more harmonious. The sisterhood athletes of which both teams speak through the meet is genuine.
"I look at it with the bigger perspective, that this is more than just a rivalry meet between two crosstown schools. The girls really, truly do come together to honor my sister and that they love her as much as I do and have taken her in as their little sister. All week, Coach Rooney said to have fun, but to remember this is a charity meet," Kate Cantrell said.
The impact of the For Scout Foundation is massive. In four years, the foundation has raised nearly $215,000, which includes $7,885 raised surrounding Thursday's meet.
"It started as this organic thing and it continues to grow. It's incredible," Scout's mom Felicity Cantrell said. Scout Cantrell loved music, animals and swimming -- and the For Scout Foundation supports those causes.
"This summer, we started a program with the St. Charles Park District, and we were able to use every cent of the $10,000 we gave to put kids into swim lessons. Support of the Anderson Animal Shelter allowed more puppies and kittens to be brought in. We're helping honor the legacy of her life and maybe someone who didn't know her will pick up an instrument or learn to swim, and then that's Scout helping them," Felicity Cantrell said.
There are plenty of people on both swim teams who remember Scout -- the legacy exists very much in the present tense.
"(Scout) was my little sister's best friend," St. Charles East junior Mary Jania said. "I remember vividly the day Scout passed. Katie is one of my close friends, and it's nice that they do this for us, give us a chance to show our appreciation for them by swimming well."
St. Charles East girls swim coach Julia Oelslager was Scout's youth swim coach the year she died.
"There's not a day or minute that goes by without thinking about that little girl's spirit and everything she brought. I cherish that and carry it with me every day," Oelslager said.
Oelslager mentioned that there is still a time to step up and compete, and she appreciated how her team performed on Thursday.
"It's nice to see girls get up and race when there are distractions. You have to be prepared to get up and race, even when it means racing against your dear friends from across the river," Oelslager said.
Scout Cantrell would have started her freshman year in high school in 2019 -- which means her friends will begin their high school careers. Felicity Cantrell said the The For Scout Foundation will continue its legacy, both in the city's swimming pools and elsewhere.
"I would trade all of this a million times over to have her back at the kitchen table for five minutes," Felicity Cantrell said. "But this has been remarkable. We say all the time that her spirit was bigger than her body and she had other things to do, and these are the other things she had to do."