The weather was sunny and the turnout was outstanding Saturday for the fundraiser benefiting former Stephenville High School football standout Justin Monk in his cancer treatment.
The event — Monk Strong Football/Cheer Camp & Family Fun Day — was held at Stephenville High School, featuring youth football and cheerleading camps, along with a silent auction and other activities. A key organizer of the event, Aaron Collier, said there were 60 who attended the football camp and 20 in the cheerleading camp.
Including the auction, the event raised right at $25,000.
"It was a great turnout," Collier said. "It was great to see the community out in force helping out the family."
Monk was diagnosed with a rare form of brain cancer just a few weeks ago. During Saturday morning’s youth football camp, Monk’s mother Carla Monk told the Empire-Tribune that the family recently learned from a test done at the Mayo Clinic that it’s a different form of cancer than the original diagnosis.
His new diagnosis is Ewing Sarcoma, which is a cancerous tumor that grows in or around bones. According to information posted online by St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital, about half of the 200 people diagnosed with that disease each year in the U.S. are between ages 10 and 20.
Monk played on Stephenville’s 1998-1999 football state championship teams and was a state champion in powerlifting. He was inducted into the SHS Athletic Hall of Fame last year. He is a former Marine who became a registered nurse and has been working at the hospital in Hamilton.
Monk has been receiving radiation and chemotherapy at Baylor Scott and White Medical Center in Temple.
After signing autographs and receiving greetings and encouragement from many of the attendees, Monk told the E-T that the event was “pretty overwhelming.”
“Words can’t explain this,” said Monk, who resides in Hamilton County with his wife and four young children. “It’s been unreal. I’m speechless, really.”
When asked about his former SHS football teammates who came out to help in multiple ways, Monk said, “I don’t even know what to say. We definitely had a bond that was different from everybody else.”
Two former NFL players — Sedrick Ellis and Stephenville’s Kevin Kolb — were on hand to help with the football camp and sign autographs afterward.
Others among the most notable former SHS football standouts and teammates who attended were Kelan Luker, Oklahoma Sooners Assistant Strength and Conditioning Coach Bryan Kegans, and of course recently hired SHS head football coach Sterling Doty.
Doty told the football and cheerleading camp attendees, “You carry the championship spirit inside of you, just like Justin has every step of the way.”
One of the young football camp attendees, Brock Boehm, responded to Monk’s situation in a remarkable way for an 11-year-old boy.
Brock’s father, David Boehm, served in the Marines for four years, and a photo posted after the event on Facebook of Brock meeting Monk drew a lot of attention. Brock was wearing a T-shirt that says “Semper Fitness” — which is the name of the workout gym David and his wife Laura — currently own in Willows, Calif.
Semper Fitness is a play on the Latin phrase Semper Fidelis (often Semper Fi), which is the world famous motto of the U.S. Marine Corps and means “always faithful” or “always loyal.”
Brock was eager to meet Monk, and told him that his dad had served in the Marines as well.
Laura Boehm told the E-T that Monk told Brock that his Semper Fitness T-shirt was “awesome.”
Brock put his hand on Monk’s shoulder and told him, “Keep fighting the good fight,” Laura said.
At home later, Laura fielded a question from Brock that indicated Monk had made a big impact on him.
“He just kept asking what kind of cancer (Monk) had,” Laura said. “I told him it was brain cancer, and he said, ‘Could I donate my brain?’ I said, ‘If you did that, I wouldn’t have you as my son. He was really disappointed.”
In response to the reaction to her son’s photo with Monk on Facebook, Laura Boehm wrote, “Brock is truly one of a kind and we’re so proud that we get to call him son. We’re new to Stephenville and heard of the event through a flyer that came home from school. Once our children read that Justin was a Marine they begged to go. Of course being a Marine Corps family there was no doubt, we were going to attend.
“Brock wanted to show his support by wearing his Semper Fitness swag and even went out and started up our old ’72 Chevy that is also decorated with Marine Corps to honor Justin. This son of ours truly has an amazing soul. From one Marine family to another Semper Fi and know we’re praying for you!”
Laura said her husband will be joining the family here after he sells the Semper Fitness gym. They plan to eventually open a fitness training studio in Stephenville.
FORMER NFL PLAYERS
After being a three-year starter at quarterback for Stephenville, Kolb played his college football at Houston under former SHS coach Art Briles. Kolb played most of his career with the Philadelphia Eagles starting in 2007, and retired in 2014.
Kolb said he moved back to Erath County about a year ago, and has a ranch between Bluff Dale and Tolar.
“It’s labeled as a fundraiser, but it’s more like a reunion seeing these old faces and getting reacquainted with each other’s lives,” Kolb said. “It’s been an enjoyable time.”
Ellis, who played for the New Orleans Saints (2008-2012) and announced his retirement in 2013, now resides in Erath County. Although Ellis was from California originally and had no Stephenville school connections, he came to help with the fundraiser after hearing about it from former SHS football player Toby O’Neal.