By Don Leighton
For the Telegram
Famous early 20th century actor and humorist Will Rogers is credited with saying, “I never met a man I didn’t like.”
I was born in 1951 and Rogers died in a plane crash Aug. 15, 1935, so I only remember him from his movies and clips of his incredible down home humor that was beloved by everybody.
The only other person I have ever met with the name Will Rogers hails from Superior and is the son of Bill and Lynne Rogers, who must have known what a special young man Will would become since the other Will Rogers was a tough act to follow.
Will grew up in Billings Park, attended Cooper Elementary School and graduated from Superior High School in 2000. He was always tall and an outstanding all-around athlete. Basketball and soccer were his sports of choice in high school, but he could have excelled in any sport.
After graduation from SHS, he attended Penn State University from 2000-05 studying athletic training. After his time at PSU, Will attended the University of Kentucky from 2005-07 to finish with a degree as an athletic trainer.
In 2007, he went to the Chicago Bears for a season-long internship, then to the San Diego Chargers as a full time assistant athletic trainer from 2008-12. (I remember seeing the Chargers on TV and watched Will come on the field during the game. He was the tall, good-looking one.)
After his time with the Chargers, Will returned to the Bears as an assistant athletic trainer in 2012. He is currently with the Bears, and I still watch to see if I can spot Will on the field or sidelines. (If I ever buy an NFL team, Will Rogers will no longer be employed by the Bears.)
I had the great pleasure of coaching basketball at Cooper School with Pat Flynn.
Will was on that team, way back in the mid-1990s. We had a good team with some great kids. I miss those days, because of kids like Will, and probably because I would be 20 years younger.
As you probably read in last Friday’s Telegram, Maria Lockwood’s great article informed us all why there is a very special gathering to take place at VIP tonight.
Will and his wife, Kristin, are the parents of a beautiful 2-year old girl, Charlotte, who, on June 1, 2017, was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL).
Needless to say, the past couple of years have been trying and exhausting for the family. Charlotte is currently in remission and if all is well, will get to “ring the bell” on June 8.
Will is looking to raise $150,000 to present to The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society to honor the more than 150 visits Charlotte has made to Lurie Children’s Hospital in Chicago, and that effort includes a trio of fundraising events from 5:30-10 p.m. Friday, May 10, at Vintage Italian Pizza.
Tonight’s events include great food, a murder-mystery by Gary Banker, beer sampling hosted by Clint Riedasch, and silent and live auctions, which include game tickets and autographed items by Aaron Rodgers, Russell Wilson and Kirk Cousins.
I know each of you reading this piece have a 2-year old in your life. I cannot imagine what life has been like for this incredibly resilient family. I have a 2-year old grandson and I pray each day that Declan will be healthy. I also pray each day for Will, Kristin and Charlotte. Please attend tonight and say your prayers.
I’m lucky to know the Will Rogers from Superior and anyone who ever met him probably feels the same.
There are people in this world we would rather not know, those we can tolerate and those who are special to us and are really decent and model citizens. Will is in the latter group.
I believe I’m on firm ground when I say that our Will Rogers probably never met a man that didn’t like him.
Opinions and/or story ideas can be emailed to Don Leighton at firstname.lastname@example.org.