IOWA CITY, Iowa (KCRG-TV9) The Sigma Chi University of Iowa Chapter is trying to keep their heads up. A member of their group, Kamil Jackowski, died last April at a fraternity formal at Lake of the Ozarks. He was 19. The accident almost split up the group and left them all heartbroken. But this weekend his fraternity brothers are honoring his memory.
"Never did I ever imagine somebody having to wake me up saying, 'your best friend, Kamil, died," said Blake Wilshire.
Wilshire says when he and Jackowski first met, they clicked instantly.
"I said, hey, maybe we'll be brothers some day. I remember we did a little handshake," said Wilshire.
The two were even going to be roommates. Now, Wilshire says he's left feeling hollow.
"I sit in the room where we were supposed to be in and you feel like empty almost," said Wilshire. "Like he should be here, he should be in the same room with me."
Jackowski's body was found unresponsive, April 2017. He had been at a fraternity event at the Lake of the Ozarks. While the official cause has yet to be released, Jackowski's death prompted the University of Iowa to crack down on alcohol use in the Greek community. Jackowski's death also lead to Sigma Chi's temporary suspension. It threatened to break up the group altogether by halting recruitment.
"These are my best friends," said Reichert. "We've gone through so much together that it would just break my heart if it were all to just dissolve because of this."
It took time, reflection and a change of behavior but the group's suspension was recently lifted. Sigma Chi is still at the University of Iowa and it's members have a new outlook, largely due to the death.
"You're looking out for the guy next to you at all times now," said Reichert. "I've personally just shied away from it now. It's made me realize that drinking-we're not invincible. We're not just able to drink as much as we want and just black out and expect everything to be okay."
"It was probably the hardest thing I've been through in my 19 years," said Jackowski.
In appreciation for the newfound perspective and to honor Jackowski's memory, Wilshire wanted do something special for the brother he lost.
He came up with a seven-on-seven flag football tournament to be played Sunday.
"I know he loved football," said Wilshire. "He was good at it he loved the game and I thought what's a great way to honor him and keep his memory with us."
The proceeds of the tournament will be going to John Hersey High School in Arlington Heights, where Jackowski attended. The school will be awarding the money to a graduating senior who "embodies what Kamil stood for," hard work and love for the game.
The flag football tournament will be held Sunday at Hubbard Park from noon to five. Those who can't participate but would still like to donate can visit their go-fund-me page.