A personal pursuit to support cancer victims

  • By Julie Muhlstein Herald Columnist
  • Wednesday, October 26, 2011 12:01am
  • Local News

Smile every opportunity you have. Live every minute to the fullest. Life is precious and fragile.

I’m borrowing those words. They come from Emily von Jentzen’s blog. On Sunday, her blog entry was about a little girl she called “a special ang


When I wrote about the former Marysville Pilchuck High School swimmer in September, I didn’t expect to revisit her story — not anytime soon.

After swimming nearly 50 miles, from one end of Lake Chelan to the

other, von Jentzen, 28, said it was too soon for another athletic goal. Von Jentzen is an attorney in Kalispell, Mont.

Late Monday, I received an email from Krissy Davis, von Jentzen’s sister. She wrote with a heavy heart and sad news: Katelyn Roker, a 6-year-old from Kalispell, died Saturday evening.

The Lake Chelan swim was a fundraiser to help pay medical expenses for Katelyn, who suffered from neuroblastoma. The cancer causes tumors to develop from nerve tissue.

“When I met Katelyn this past spring, I was not prepared for just how much this small child would impact my life,” von Jentzen wrote in the blog entry.

On Sunday, KAJ News in Kalispell reported that the girl’s family hopes to establish a fund in Katelyn’s name to support research to fight the disease.

With her Chelan swim, von Jentzen raised at least $8,000 for Katelyn’s family. The summer before she swam the length of Chelan, von Jentzen swam 30 miles across Montana’s Flathead Lake to help pay medical expenses for a Missoula, Mont., girl who was battling leukemia.

It’s with awe that I keep coming back to von Jentzen’s exploits. Those grueling long-distance swims are examples of what one person, with a generous spirit and the will to persevere, can do for others who are suffering.

All through October, National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, we see the color pink on clothing, food labels and at events. Those efforts raise money to fight the disease. At the Everett Silvertips “Pink in the Rink” hockey game Friday, a goalie wore a pink mask painted by Brian Archer, whose wife died of breast cancer in 2010.

With so many fundraising walks and pitches to help battle this or that disease, it’s easy to be overwhelmed. It’s easy to look the other way.

On Sunday at Everett’s American Legion Park, the public is invited to a breast cancer fundraiser sponsored by area Safeway stores. The event, which starts at 6 p.m., will include a bake sale, a speaker sharing her experiences, and the lighting of luminary bags at 7 p.m.

Cherie Myers, a regional Safeway spokeswoman, said the Legion Park event, a first for the area, is meant to wrap up the company’s annual Breast Cancer Awareness Month fundraising effort. Money raised will benefit the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance, which includes the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, UW Medicine and Seattle Children’s Hospital, and help pay for mammograms at Providence Regional Medical Center Everett.

In 2010, Myers said, $1.3 million was raised for the cause at Western Washington’s Safeway stores, and that $200,000 was donated to the Skagit Valley Hospital Breast Care Center in Mount Vernon.

Lighting the luminary bags, she said, “is a statement.”

“It says we will always give hope to all those fighting this disease,” she said.

Emily von Jentzen found a different way to give hope. She lives with the memory of hope she received in return.

During her bone-chilling swim of Lake Chelan, she was cheered by the presence of 6-year-old Katelyn, who was able to spend some time on an escort boat with her mother, Jaime. Von Jentzen wrote that Katelyn “was making everyone on the boat laugh.”

Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460; muhlstein@heraldnet.com.

Breast cancer fundraiser

A Breast Cancer Awareness Month fundraising event is scheduled for 6 p.m. Sunday at Everett’s American Legion Memorial Park, 145 Alverson Blvd. It will include a speaker, bake sale and the lighting of luminary bags at 7 p.m.

The event is sponsored by Everett area Safeway stores. Luminary bags will be available for $5 each. Proceeds will go to the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance and Providence Regional Medical Center Everett.

For information about Katelyn Roker, go to http://alakkeforkatelyn.blogspot.com.

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