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