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Eli Sidler: Even In Passing, His Impact Lives On

by and on February 22, 2015 1:15 PM

With the start of Family Hour comes tears, inspiration, and hope for the future. Emotional stories of Four Diamonds children both past and present.

During Family Hour last year, that emotion came from Bret Sidler, the father of the late Eli Sidler. The Chemowarrior.

In September 2004, Eli was diagnosed with Ewing's Sarcoma after suffering agonizing pain, which prompted several visits to the doctor. Nicknamed the "Chemowarrior" by his father, Eli attended his first THON in 2005 as Club Field Hockey's THON child.

Eli was a normal teenager. He enjoyed playing video games and hanging out with friends, but the bond he made with Club Field Hockey left a lasting impression on both he and his parents. The girls would celebrate important milestones with Eli and were always at his side every THON, through thick and thin.

His untimely passing in 2012 at the age of 16 left a mark on both Club Field Hockey and THON as a whole, but his story wouldn't end there. The girls still came to visit the family and sent letters and presents, with the Sidlers as much a part of them as they were a part of the Sidler's. The extended family would grow every year, with new girls meeting the Sidlers and forming bonds that would never be forgotten. One would think that Eli's story would end there, but the Sidlers decided to take action of their own.

On April 11, 2014, they founded Chemowarrior: The Eli Sidler Foundation on what would have been his 18th birthday to combat Ewing's Sarcoma for others. They have already raised $25,000 to fund clinical research at the Mary Crowley Cancer Research Center in Dallas, Texas that will hopefully occur at the end of this year. The Sidlers are already making an impact on the lives of others diagnosed with Sarcoma, spreading awareness for the extremely rare disease. But the journey wouldn't end there or at THON 2014 either.

Unbeknownst to the Sidlers, an independent dancer would take to the floor for 46 hours during THON 2015 for Eli.

Brian Keith attended the same high school as Eli, but had never actually met him. Eli was his brother's age and he'd heard Eli's story, but only through the grapevine and a speech that Bret gave to the school, which seemed like years ago for Keith. He had watched Bret take the stage at Family Hour, not from the BJC, but on a computer screen in Florence, Italy. The story struck a chord with Keith over 4,300 miles away.

"Just to see that and have people in tears from the story, you just knew that Eli had such an affect on individuals," Keith says.

This weekend, the Sidlers were informed by Family Relations that a dancer wanted to meet them. A little before midnight on Saturday, the Sidlers met Keith for the first time and a bond was formed. They met in private, where they were able to take it all in. Here they were, the unlikeliest of matches, brought together by THON.

"He's gone two and a half years and this is the third one he's not been at. To have somebody contact us saying there's a dancer on the floor that would like to meet Eli's parents is very humbling," Sue Sidler, Eli's mother, says. "For us, it's all we have left for people to remember Eli and that's the most we can hope for."

The back of Brian's shirt reads "For Eli." Even though he never met Eli, he still honors him, knowing that he touched countless other lives. That's a testament to Eli. His impact knew no limit.

"His memory lives on through the Sidlers and THON," says Keith.

The Sidlers say that Eli wouldn't believe it all. He just wanted to be a normal kid, but was stifled down later in his life by the dreadful disease. They do know one thing for sure, Eli would be tormenting Keith all weekend, marshmallow gun and all.

As for Club Field Hockey, they are in the process of transitioning a new family to their ranks. The Sidlers will be there in the transition, knowing that the first THON for a family is overwhelming. They know the ropes and want to pass on the help they received to other Four Diamonds families.

For Family Hour this year, the Sidlers are opting for the sidelines instead of center stage. They're in a transition of their own, but Eli is still at THON, even in passing. His memory lives on, touching innumerable lives that may have never even met him like Brian. That's the power of THON, remembrance and rebirth.


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This post was originally published by the staff at Onward State. Follow Onward State on Twitter @OnwardState.

Ted Hozza writes for Onward State. He's also a Penn State student majoring in Community, the Environment, and Development.
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