Fighter Round

Each year, we honor several local people who battled cancer by making them Honorary Captains of the tournament. By doing this, we bring the focus back to why we're joining forces and raising lots of money-to get rid of this terrible disease called cancer. The Fighter (or a family member) plays a game of bean bags in our Fighter/Survivor Round along with a local celebrity of their choice. We will also share some stories about these Fighters' battles with this awful disease. Please join us in celebrating these Fighters' journeys by cheering them on during their games

Last Years Honorary Captains were:

Courtney McGill

Courtney McGill is a bright, outgoing young lady who manages to stay positive through everything life throws at her. Positivity is especially key for her right now because over Christmas break - December 29th - she was diagnosed with stage 4 intrahepatic bile duct cholangiocarcinoma; bile duct cancer. There are many bile ducts within the body, but Courtney’s cancer stems from the bile ducts within her liver.

Courtney was working at Rogers and Hollands Jewelry Store on December 22nd when she tried to take in a deep breath, but couldn’t. The more she tried, the more difficult it became. Her parents, Neil and Karman, took her to the emergency room where she ended up spending the night. After a week of testing, it was found that Courtney, did indeed, have cancer. Courtney immediately began chemotherapy treatments on January 8th. She has been receiving these treatments in cycles of 21 days. On day 1 and 8 of each cycle, she receives doses of chemo. She is just beginning cycle #3. She will have to continue chemotherapy treatments as doctors say the cancer is too large to attempt any other treatments or procedures, at the moment.

Courtney feels blessed that, so far, her chemotherapy treatments have been going quite well. She hasn’t experienced much sickness and she is still feeling relatively well. She does experience some dizziness and she has lost some of her beautiful hair. The treatment schedule is taxing and is interfering with Courtney’s work schedule.. Courtney is currently only able to work two days per week for four hours each day.

Courtney’s family has been very supportive through her battle. She says that given the difficult circumstances, they’ve constantly been there for her. Their care, concern and support has been amazing. Considering that without any previous history of cancer in their family, Courtney’s diagnosis came as a shock to everyone. Courtney’s family has always been a big part of her life and that connection has only become stronger in the past few months. Courtney also has an amazing extended family in her friends and her community. She is humbled by the enormous support she has received from those around her. As a sign of their support, her family and friends have joined forces to create Team McGill, ready and willing to support Courtney throughout her journey.

Courtney is Karman and Neil’s only child. Courtney states that she and her mom are complete opposites. Courtney is very talkative and outgoing while her mom is more on the reserved and quiet side. Her dad Neil, on the other hand, is outgoing and chatty. He enjoys many of the same things Courtney does, like hunting, fishing, and golfing. Courtney loves the outdoors, especially in the summer. She’s looking forward to being able to do things like tubing on the river and going camping when Mother Nature finally decides to cooperate. Because Courtney is also a big fan of Minnesota sports teams like the Minnesota Wild and the Minnesota Vikings, she is excited to be paired in this year’s Cabin Fever Fighter Round with Vikings All-Pro punt returner and defensive back, Marcus Sherels.

Maddie Engel

The instant Maddie was born, her family knew this beautiful little lady was going to make a difference in this world. Her big brown eyes, with a hint of mischief, spoke for themselves. Born on tax day in 2010, Maddie is described by her mom, Abby, as sassy and a bit “smart-assy!” Her dad, Nick, says Maddie is a mini-version of her mother - not afraid to speak her mind about anything and everything! Quick comebacks, sharp glares, being stubborn and a never-give-up attitude are essential skills needed for a middle child and the only daughter in the Engel family. Who knew that those same skills were going to be vital for Maddie’s biggest challenge to date – a cancer diagnosis at the age of 7.

Days after Thanksgiving 2017, Maddie complained of bad stomach ache. A stop at the Waseca Emergency Department, doctors ordered an x-ray since her stomach was rock-hard and very painful. Hours later, Abby took Maddie home. She was told that her daughter was terribly constipated. Rest, fluids and over-the-counter meds was the plan. The following day, Maddie felt even worse. At quick glance, Abby could tell that Maddie’s stomach was distended, very hard and had a noticeable bulge where the veins looked black under her skin.

Abby took Maddie back to the Waseca ED. This time, the doctors ordered a CT scan. The scan confirmed a large mass the size of Maddie’s kidney was laying on the tube that connected her bladder and kidneys. Maddie was sent home with pain meds and would wait for a phone call directing their next steps. Later that day, Maddie was instructed to travel to Rochester to be admitted to Mayo Clinic. The following day, Maddie had a biopsy and a spinal tap. Shortly after, Maddie’s kidneys began to shut down. It was immediately determined that a catheter in the neck was needed for dialysis to help her kidneys recover. Abby vividly remembers prior to the catheter procedure, Maddie asked for string cheese and some water for when she got back. Abby told Maddie that she could absolutely have them upon her return. Sadly, Maddie returned from her procedure sedated and on a ventilator. The tumor was doubling in size each day. The mass had taken over her abdominal area and was pushing on Maddie’s diaphragm, preventing her from getting enough oxygen.

Later, Abby and Nick received news that rocked their world. Their feisty, stubborn, big-hearted, only-daughter had Stage 3 Burkitt’s Lymphoma. Burkitt’s Lymphoma is a cancer that is usually found in boys and extremely rapid-growing. Maddie’s pediatric oncologist gave them some news that seemed like the one bright spot at a rather dark time. The care team was optimistically hopeful and confident that Maddie was going to beat this! A treatment plan was established. Four rounds of high dose chemotherapy were planned. Maddie would receive chemo for 5 days straight, every 16 days, beginning immediately. Much welcomed positive news followed Maddie’s first round of chemo. The scans revealed that the treatment was working and her tumor decreased in size in just over a week!

Within the first month of treatment, Maddie began to lose her hair. First came a haircut with some green highlights. Soon after, came a full shave. “No hair – don’t care!” was Maddie’s motto. Grandpa, Dad and her two brothers joined the “bald is beautiful” haircut Maddie was sporting. From Thanksgiving to the beginning of March, Maddie spent all but 15 days in the hospital or the Ronald McDonald House. After every chemo cycle, without fail, Maddie would develop a fever which would require days in the hospital until it was safe to leave. The family was thankful to spend Christmas together, at home. Being at their home was something the family of 5 hadn’t been able to do for the prior 4 months. Maddie had her last dose of chemo on February 19th! The tumor is gone! Maddie is cancer free! She displayed that with sheer strength, determination and hope, she could prevail. She was a resilient champion!

Maddie is excited to get back to school and join her friends in her 2nd grade class! After all, she needs to study up to become a nurse and a firefighter someday! When asked why she wants to wants to be a nurse, she confidently stated, “I think I know everything nurses do and I really want to help people!” Maddie also missed playing (AKA: bossing around) her 4 year-old brother Callen, affectionately known as Bam-Bam. Being so young, Bam-Bam has struggled with sissy being gone. Maddie’s older brother, Cody, is thrilled to have his little lady back home to help celebrate his senior year of high school. How thrilled, you ask? So thrilled that he dedicated his first tattoo to his inspiring little sister. Even Saddie Mae, the family’s yellow lab, is excited to have Maddie’s sassy pants back home! Interestingly, it was Saddie Mae who was the first to realize something was wrong with Maddie back in November!

Abby and Nick are still in a daze. How was it that their little girl was the one who had to endure a cancer diagnosis and subsequent, grueling treatment plan? Why not them? They would often pray to God to let them trade places with her. Beyond thankful that their beautiful daughter is okay, they are also at a loss of words when reflecting on all the support they’ve received from Maddie’s care team, their family, friends and the community. They are eager to see Maddie playing outside in her new sandbox, kayaking on Lake Francis or enjoying a day on the pontoon - all favorites of Maddie’s. They credit Maddie’s ability to beat cancer to her feistiness, determination and humor, and are confident that she can do anything she puts her mind to. Abby and Nick, along with Maddie, also have immense gratitude for Maddie’s pediatric oncologist, Dr. Vilmarie Rodriguez. When asked who, she would want to play bean bags with as her hero, there was zero hesitation from Maddie. She replied, “I want to play with my Dr. Rodriguez!”

Meela Hoover

“Pink, purple, and all things princess” is how four-year old Meela Hoover’s mom, Lisa Hoover, would describe her little girl. She loves to sing and dance all day, every day. Meela is the 3rd oldest of four children, and lives in Chatfield, MN with her parents and three brothers.

Just after Meela’s 3rd birthday, she had been running low grade fevers and felt very tired for a few weeks. She was experiencing pain in her legs and her tummy was bloated. Lisa’s motherly instincts told her this could be leukemia, so she took Meela to see their pediatrician. Luckily, the family’s pediatrician had a similar feeling and immediately sent Meela for some blood work.

On March 3rd, 2017, the Hoover family’s lives would forever be changed. Meela was diagnosed with Pre-B Cell A.L.L. - a type of leukemia which affects bone marrow. It causes the body to have too many immature white blood cells. Without normal white blood cells, the body has a difficult time fighting infections. Meela immediately started treatment at Mayo Clinic. After a month of chemotherapy, Meela had not achieved remission as the doctors had hoped. This changed Meela’s diagnosis to High Risk Pre-B Cell A.L.L.

During the ongoing chemotherapy, spinal taps, and blood transfusions, Meela has managed to capture the hearts of every person she meets. The staff at St. Marys Hospital have come to identify Meela’s laugh from hallways away. Whether she was admitted to the hospital for chemotherapy, had a fever or extremely low white blood cell count, Meela is constantly smiling and playing. When she is in the hospital, Meela loves to spend time with her favorite nurse, Ben. Meela and Ben love to team up to construct mischievous plots together.

But, don’t let all the smiles and giggles fool you, kicking cancer’s butt is hard work. Meela has been receiving intense chemotherapy for over a year now, and will continue maintenance chemo treatments for a minimum of another year and a half. No four-year-old should have to endure the weekly anxiety that comes with painful dressing changes, being sedated for spinal taps and other procedures, being stuck in bed for 3 hours during chemo treatments, and enduring high dose steroids throughout her treatment.

Meela’s family is anxious for this part of their journey to be behind them. Meela’s mom Lisa states, “The ups and downs of this cancer journey are long and hard. The fear, painful tears, anger, many sleepless nights, the hitting and the screaming were daily occurrences,” says Lisa, but was quick to add that “there was always a lot of love.” She goes on to say that “God, hope, grace, miracles, trust, and comfort allowed them to push through treatments, one day at a time. We will not let cancer define who we are or what we become!”

Meela’s bravery continuously shines through. In fact, she wanted to share her own advice to other kids fighting cancer. She says, “Be strong and brave and keep eating to stay strong!” Meela, that is wonderful advice and your bravery and strength is truly inspiring! It’s only fitting that Meela’s Hero partner is her favorite nurse, her partner-in-mischief, nurse Ben Groteboer.

Anna Malmquist

Anna Elizabeth Malmquist lit up every room that she walked into. Her smile and laugh were frequent and contagious. Anna had a way of making people feel extraordinary and empowered. When Anna was in the room, her positive energy was inspiring and lifted everyone’s spirits. Anna had an amazing gift for bringing people together. More than anything, she was beautiful inside and out.

A few years after college, Anna married the love of her life, Ryan Malmquist. They were the perfect match in so many ways. They shared a love for the outdoors, health and fitness, traveling, family and attending social events. They shared their joy and laughter freely with friends, family and everyone they interacted with in their community. Anna and Ryan were blessed with three beautiful children, Kensington (6), Ayla (3) and Jace (1 year).

During Memorial Day weekend in 2017, two months after Jace was born, Anna was struggling to swallow as a result of significant swelling from a wisdom tooth that was recently pulled. She ended up in her local Emergency Room where it was discovered that her white blood cell count was alarmingly high. A short time later Anna was given a devastating diagnosis of Acute Myeloid Leukemia, otherwise known as AML.

The “acute” portion of AML means that this type of leukemia can progress quickly. In addition to this devastating news, it was also discovered that Anna had two genetic mutations that were associated with lower treatment response and a high risk of relapse.

Amazingly, Anna never asked, “Why me?” Instead, she continued living life to the fullest. She focused her positive attitude on coordinating blood drives, sharing her strong faith, and encouraging, supporting and inspiring others who were going through their own challenges.

This incredibly strong woman battled cancer relentlessly through chemotherapy, cancer-research treatments, blood transfusions, bone marrow biopsies, C-diff, pancreatitis, and numerous weeks in the hospital away from the family she loved so dearly. She endured awful side effects, immense pain, sleepless nights, and countless tests and exams. No matter what obstacles she faced, her smile, positive attitude, faith and gratitude remained. Ryan, together with their family, friends and community, rallied around her, showing an overwhelming amount of love and support.

97 days after her diagnosis, on Labor Day weekend - the close of the summer season that she loved so dearly - we lost our bright, shining star, Anna. Even with our enormous loss, she left the world a markedly better place. We love and miss you dearly Anna, and today we are humbled to honor your memory.

Now for the fun part. Anna was strong, fearless and beautiful. She would do everything in her power to help those she loved. We are lucky enough to have a heroine here that displays the same wonderful traits that Anna championed. Please welcome Disney’s Moana who is here to honor and support Anna’s family. Let’s hear it for Moana and the Malmquist Family!

KTTC's Jess Abrahamson will be our MC for the Fighter Round and Tom Overlie did the voice-overs for our fighter videos! Thank you Jess and Tom!!

And THANK YOU to all the supporters of the Fighter Round. Because of you, this will be a special moment for each of our strong, courageous Honorary Tournament Captains!

Please join us in celebrating these fighters' journeys by cheering them on during their game at approximately 3 PM.