R-P teacher and coach shares stirring story at Fool’s Five race
Wednesday, April 12, 2017 2:15 PM
Cancer is ugly! Everyone can agree on that. Because of its wide reaching effect, so many have experienced the tragedy of cancer.
R-P teacher and basketball coach, Tom Vix, shared the story of his late sister’s battle with cancer at the 39th annual Fool’s Five race.
In response, millions across the country participate in events to raise money to fight against various forms of cancer. One such event is the 39th annual Fools Five run in Lewiston, which was held on Sunday, April 2.
Pre-race this year, runners saw a familiar face to encourage them. At the starting line was Rushford-Peterson teacher and boys basketball coach Tom Vix who shared his personal story of how cancer stole his sister away on June 8, 2012.
Jaqueline Louise (Vix) Hatlevig was 56 at the time of her death. “Dr. Jackie” – as Vix referred to her – was a professor at Winona State University (WSU). She received her bachelor’s degree in 1975, her master’s in 1986, and her Ph.D. in 2000.
She was instrumental in launching the Child Advocacy Studies at WSU.
She also was looked to as the organizer for family functions at the holiday season, the time when the absence of loved ones is felt the most.
“I think everyone here recognizes how important family is,” Vix said on Sunday. “May your family never have an empty chair at a family gathering.”
In 2002, Jackie was diagnosed with breast cancer. After few months of cancer treatment at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, her cancer went into remission.
But the cancer resurfaced in 2008, having spread wildly. Vix, who hadn’t missed a full season of basketball in decades, took the year off from coaching to spend more time with his sister and be her support.
“Cancer is a bigger thing than a basketball game,” he acknowledged. “All of those wins and losses are now in perspective.”
When Jackie was given three weeks to live, Vix told the crowd that his father called it “the saddest day of his life.” His father wrote his thoughts into a poem from Jackie to God, called “Just One More Day.”
At Jackie’s funeral, her favorite song, Que Sera Sera, was played. Four months after her funeral, her husband, Ron, died from a pulmonary embolism.
“I’m convinced that he died from a broken heart,” Vix pointed out.
In concluding, Vix reminded the crowd that cancer is not selective, and it doesn’t play favorites. It targets all ages, all races, all professions and all genders.
But, despite the evils of cancer, Vix highlighted the beauty of Jackie’s personality.
“She always worried about other people more than herself,” he said. “She was so tough and so brave. She made me a better coach. She made me a better person.”
The Fool’s Five theme for this year was “We are Strong, Together.” The race raised over $78,000 that will go to Mayo Clinic, The Hormel Institute, the Masonic Cancer Center, and the Gundersen Health System’s Cancer Center.
When race organizers asked Vix to speak, he was surprised at the request. “Typically, they have had Olympic runners or they have had cancer survivors,” he pointed out.
“They explained that they were really looking for how it affects families.”
Apart from his speech, Vix gave some interviews to local news publications while sticking around at the finish line to greet runners and award trophies and ribbons.
According to Vix, Fool’s Five had roughly 2,400 runners this year, which is down from previous years. However, the amount raised was more than previous years.
“They are a first-class outfit. They do a great job of getting pledges and runners,” said Vix, who had been preparing himself for the event since last year.
“I had written the speech a month and a half ago. So I had time to digest it and practice it a bit. I hope it sent the right message. I hope they realize, we are all in this together.”