by Michael Bowen & r & & r & & lt;span class= "dropcap " & M & lt;/span & ark Rypien knows something about roller coaster emotions. One of the pinnacles? Being named MVP of the 1992 Super Bowl. And the lowest of the low points? Just six years later, watching his 3-year-old son Andrew die from cancer.
Many parents would have wilted into despair; instead, Rypien decided to do some good. Today, the Mark Rypien Foundation is a charitable organization that hosts fund-raisers and sponsors camps, all in the name of helping kids with cancer. They're the ones with weakened immune systems and head scarves, the ones who want to drink root beer and fall off bikes and say dumb things, just like regular kids. Unfortunately, they've been singled out in the wrong kind of lottery: The odds of being diagnosed with cancer by age 19 are about 1 in 330. Even worse, childhood cancers -- because they derive from more primitive cell types -- are typically more aggressive than adult forms of cancer.
The Rypien Foundation, simply put, tries to make life more bearable for those children. It purchases supplies to improve the quality of care for pediatric cancer patients and their families. And at Camp Goodtimes in Post Falls, it gives young cancer victims (ages 7-17) a week out of the hospital, completely free of charge -- a chance to hike, camp and swim like normal kids, away from all those scary oncologists with their stethoscopes.
Working on behalf of kids who can use the help, the Rypien Foundation stages golf tournaments, hosts elegant wine dinners, offers souvenir footballs for sale and even presents charitable hockey games. (Once they've squashed your face into the glass, hockey players can be quite charitable.) By itself, the Zak! Celebrity Open, held just last weekend at Spokane Country Club, raised $200,000 for benefiting charities. With a dozen heavy hitters from the local business community on its board of directors, the Rypien Foundation is working hard to add more charity events to its schedule.
Mark Rypien, a standout athlete at Shadle Park High and at WSU, started his nonprofit because he wanted to give back to the Inland Northwest. The most enduring testament to his courage, of course, is a large athletic field on the edge of Hillyard that, after a seven-year struggle, was finally transformed in 2001 from a toxic junkyard into a playground for kids -- all kids, not just the ones with cancer.
Its name, of course, is Andrew Rypien Field. Andrew would have been 11 this year; the work that his father Mark's foundation does is ongoing. Unfortunately, there's a need for it.
For more information, visit www.markrypienfoundation.org or call 747-2424.