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March 12, 2013
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K.O.L.E. benefit for cancer patients

GRAND LAKE - March 12 was the birthday of Kevin Cole, Jr., a Grand Lake-area

resident and Middle Park High School graduate who would have been 34 years

old, had it not been for the unrelenting cancer that stole his life when he

was just 19.

A volunteer Grand Lake firefighter alongside his mother Rosalind and father

Kevin, the junior Kevin endured nine months from the time of his diagnosis

of testicular cancer battling the disease that spread throughout his body.

During that time, he maintained an almost "super natural" attitude, never

once complaining or asking "why me," said his mother.

The night before the family first took him to the hospital, Kevin had

suffered a debilatating headache, and he'd lost the ability to hold anything

in his right hand.

"I got this eerie feeling, but I didn't know what it meant," Rosalind said.

She remembers having seen an elk outside their home that night, "like a

song, it was so clear," she said. In three days upon seeing that elk, she

would come to find out her son was dying, and although doctors would try

everything that winter, the disease was just too aggressive.

Kevin died in June.

"I wanted to die too," Rosalind said.

Inspiration

But for 12 years now, the family's memory of their son has transformed the

lives of others.

Through the Colorado nonprofit corporation K.O.L.E, or Kevin's Outreach for

Local Emergencies, the Cole family each year raises funds for Grand County

cancer patients who are full-time residents.

Kevin Sr. and Rosalind still live in the Grand Lake area, and as much as 90

percent of the funds to K.O.L.E. come from Grand County donors helping the

residents of Grand County.

"A one-time financial gift can help them," Rosalind said. "It doesn't change

their life, but it changes their day."

A check received from K.O.L.E. can mean alleviating the worry of a mortgage

payment for a certain month during treatment, or it can mean paying for

groceries as other bills mount. One woman worried about her appearance going

to the hospital, so she used the money to pay for new pajamas, Rosalind

said. Another patient diagnosed with six weeks to live used the money for a

plane ticket for his son to see him in person. Another young cancer

patient's parents used the money to take their child to Eliches.

"Its not really financial aid," Rosalind said, "but its for needs that

insurance doesn't cover."

Every check is delivered to patients in person, and Rosalind has made it so

receipt of the donation is as simple as possible, without burdensome

paperwork.

The K.O.L.E program finds those who receive, then recover physically and

financially, to become K.O.L.E's most ardent supporters. "I don't encourage

them to do that," Rosalind said, "They do it because they want to."

The program was born out of the Coles' experience when their son was going

through treatment. "When Kevin was sick, people in Grand County from

everywhere dropped off bags of groceries, or were leaving $100 bills,"

Rosalind said. The Coles faced substantial medical bills: "The people here

kept us from selling our house," she said.

Each year, the K.O.L.Es largest fundraiser takes place at the Rapids Lodge

in Grand Lake. Owners Tom and Lynne Ludwig, whose son Nikolaus Ludwig -is a

cancer survivor living in Texas, sponsor the event by supplying all of the

food and the venue for the annual prime rib dinner.

Now their son Max and his wife Tatyana Ludwig, who recently took over

operation of the Rapids restaurant, have committed to continuing this

tradition.

This year, the Feb. 26 event raised $4,500 in funds for K.O.L.E., with more

than 150 people served.

"I am so utterly grateful for the Rapids," Rosalind said. "I am amazed at

how they have perfected this fundraiser."

And the Grand Lake Firefighters also help with the event each year by

bussing tables and helping out where needed. The event is not a benefit for

the fire district, but they lend a helping hand in honor of Kevin.

"People comment and compliment on the presence of those firefighters and

their uniforms," Rosalind said, saying their presence honors Kevin with

respect.

- Tonya Bina can be reached at 970-887-3334 ext.19603.


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The Sky-Hi News Updated Mar 13, 2013 12:11AM Published Mar 12, 2013 11:41PM Copyright 2013 The Sky-Hi News. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.