LAKE IN THE HILLS – Former Indianapolis Colt and Northern Illinois University football star Ryan Diem held a charity golf outing Monday to raise money and awareness about an aggressive and lesser-known form of pediatric cancer.
Diem, along with former Chicago Bears Dan Hampton and Glen Kozlowski, took part in the ninth annual Allie & Friends Golf Classic, which benefitted the Children’s Neuroblastoma Cancer Foundation.
Neuroblastoma is a cancer that develops from immature nerve cells and is most common in infants and toddlers. It has a survival rate of less than 40 percent for high-risk patients.
Monday’s event at Boulder Ridge Country Club in Lake in the Hills was meant to raise money and awareness for a disease that many people know little about, said Patricia Tallungan, Children’s Neuroblastoma Cancer Foundation president.
“Little by little, the foundation and the cause are getting more notoriety,” Tallungan said. “It’s hard to tell people to do something if they don’t know anything about it. And most people have never heard of it. That’s our goal, to raise awareness for the disease as well as getting people involved.”
Tallungan started the CNCF after her son died after a four-year battle with the disease. The foundation has raised about $2 million since 2005, funding researchers across the country.
“It’s very heartwarming to know people care enough to want to help,” Tallungan said. “When you have a disease that not too many people know about, and to have this response to a plea, it really makes you feel good.”
Tallungan reached out to Diem nine years ago to enlist him for the inaugural golf classic. After attending the event as a participant, Diem wanted to play a larger role.
Diem, a graduate of Glenbard North, used his connections in the NFL to bring former players to the event. He also organizes the collection of items for the silent auction, which included autographed NFL team footballs, an autographed jersey from Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews and a trip with Diem and his wife to an Indianapolis Colts game.
“Unfortunately, the disease strikes children very young,” Diem said. “Usually 2 to 3 years old. Those kids don’t really have a voice. Part of the reason we’re doing the event is to create that awareness and to give them a voice that they don’t really have.”
Allie & Friends was founded in 2005 by Lake in the Hills residents Scott and Kristin Jewson after the couple learned the 2-year-old daughter of their friends, Brian and Keri Neff of Minnesota, had been diagnosed with the disease. Allie died in 2006.
Monday’s golf outing, silent auction and other donations are expected to raise about $200,000, Tallungan said.
“Stuff like this just makes your heart rise,” Tallungan said. “People do care. People do want to get involved. They do want to participate and make a difference.”
For information about neuroblastoma or to donate to the Children’s Neuroblastoma Cancer Foundation, visit www.cncfhope.org.