Cedar Rapids hoops family holds fundraiser for Leukemia

BY ERIK PAPKE | JUNE 20, 2011 7:20 AM

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Bill and Donna Frese are used to traveling thousands of miles from their home in Cedar Rapids to College Park, Md.

They make the trip a few times every winter to support their daughter, Maryland women’s basketball coach Brenda Frese.

But on the evening of June 18, Bill, Donna, and the rest of the Frese family stayed in Cedar Rapids to show their support for another team: Team Tyler.

Tyler Thomas, Brenda Frese’s 3-year-old son, was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia in 2010. According to Cancer.gov, the cancer affects the blood and bone marrow and is the most common type of the disease for young children.

“He was diagnosed when his brother was going to the doctor,” said Donna Frese. “The doctor had noticed his fingernails were yellow, and he had been running a slight temperature at night.”

Tyler, then 2 1/2 years old, was diagnosed just in time, and he has an 85 percent chance for a full recovery. His cancer is in remission, Donna Frese said.

The Team Tyler Foundation was founded in response to Tyler’s illness by four of Frese’s former players at Maryland. Marissa Coleman, Laura Harper, Shay Doron, and Kristi Toliver helped the Terrapins win the 2006 NCAA national championship, and the relationship the foursome had with Brenda Frese inspired them to start the organization “to help not only Tyler but also others dealing with this hardship,” according to the nonprofit’s website.

The organization held a fundraiser on June 18 in Cedar Rapids, Brenda Frese’s hometown — although the coach herself was unable to attend. The event was held at Gatherings restaurant, with music provided by local band Lady Lowe. The restaurant was decorated with green and orange balloons, and a row of tables in the back held posters with more information about the Team Tyler Foundation, Tyler’s condition, and the Leukemia and Lymphoma Foundation.

Brothers Logan and Justin Schulte, Tyler’s cousins, manned the front entrance. The pair collected a $10 entrance fee and sold T-shirts and wristbands, the proceeds of which were donated to a variety of nonprofit organizations.

“We think they’ve done such a marvelous job [with the Team Tyler Foundation], we’d just like to help them out here in the Iowa City area,” said Donna Frese.

Brenda Frese’s sister, Stacy, has done just that. She has raised around $10,000 in Iowa, and the earnings benefit the Iowa Chapter of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.

“People can donate to Team Tyler, [whose] proceeds will go to the [Johns Hopkins] Hospital in Maryland,” said Deb Frese, Tyler’s aunt. “Or, if they want to keep their funds local, donate to the lymphoma societies of Iowa City.

“We just wanted to see what we could do as a family to help raise awareness with these funds.”

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