Three eastern Iowa officials donate pay to benefit former Mount Vernon athlete battling lymphoma

Published: Jan. 19, 2023 at 7:07 PM CST
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MOUNT VERNON, Iowa (KCRG) - After learning that 2020 Mount Vernon graduate Summer Brand’s cancer was back, Mike Bonwell knew he wanted to help. Brand, who was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma in June of 2022, learned from her oncologist in December that she is part of the five percent of patients to reach remission only to have the cancer return within six months.

“I immediately got on the group text with me, Travis and Willie and just said hey, this is an idea I’ve got. Let’s just write a check to the family when we get there,” Bonwell explained.

Prior to working their basketball double header between Solon and Mount Vernon, Bonwell, Travis Fuller and Willie Guy donated their checks from reffing the games to help Summer and her family.

“We’re all healthy and these guys - I know the medical bills. They’ll never be able to pay them off, so whatever we can do to put a smile on their face, that’s what we did,” Bonwell added.

“At the end of the night, I think we all just felt really, really good about what we did,” said Travis Fuller. “We’re hoping that it raises more awareness and others can do the same thing for the family,” he added.

Throughout their 8 years of officiating, the last three together, this crew has made a number of calls that have impacted play on the court. However, the one made Tuesday they hope has a bigger impact off of it.

“We referee and we all played sports, but in the end it’s about the kids,” Fuller said. “It just makes us realize that what we’re doing is much more than the game.”

The trio wants to encourage other officials to do the same.

“I’m going to send out an email to our association just asking if anybody who works at Mount Vernon, whether it be baseball, softball, basketball, or wrestling, just one time, donate your check one time to the family. It can add up. Every little bit is going to help them,” Bonwell said.

They believe in strength in numbers. Community support can go a long way as Summer continues her battle.

“It’s a fight that everyone has to fight, not just the family. If we can help that cause, that’s what we’re trying to do in this situation,” Fuller said.