Former Elburn resident organizes fundraiser for friend’s son
by Keith Beebe
YORKVILLE—Former Elburn resident Ryan West, a 1998 Kaneland High School graduate, is currently organizing the “Helping Hunter” fundraiser for Hunter Darnell, son of Yorkville High School wrestling coach Shane Darnell.
Hunter suffers from a rare heart condition known as Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome (HLHS), which occurs when the left side of the human heart is unable to fully develop.
“The Helping Hunter fundraiser is something being put together by some of the wrestling families in Yorkville, as well as some other people who know the Darnells well, in order to help Hunter and the Darnell family with the hardship they are going through right now,” West said.
West teaches and also coaches football and wrestling at Grayslake North High School in Grayslake, Ill., and was Shane Darnell’s varsity wrestling assistant the last five years. West, who now resides in Yorkville, said he and his fiance are very close with Shane, his wife Tracy and their sons Kenton and Hunter.
“He and his family mean a ton to the Yorkville wrestling family. We would do everything possible to help them,” he said. “We had a fundraiser (for them) this spring that was run through the high school and some of the teachers.”
Hunter was diagnosed with HLHS in November 2008 while still in the womb. Shane and Tracy then learned that Hunter, after birth, would need three open-heart surgeries known as the Norwood, Glenn and Fontan, respectively. Hunter was born six weeks early on Feb. 20, 2009, and received a hybrid open-heart surgery six days later. According to the website www.HelpingHunterDarnell.com, the hybrid surgery allowed Hunter to grow bigger until he was ready for the Norwood surgery.
Hunter received both the Norwood and Glenn surgeries in June 2009, and began bleeding internally just hours after the seven-hour operation. He spent five weeks in the hospital before he was able to return home. The website states that Hunter underwent another surgery at 11 months to fix his aorta, which had enlarged to the point of crushing his left pulmonary artery.
Hunter is currently suffering from severe complications that were a result of the Fontan surgery he underwent last summer.
“The complications could possibly alter the rest of Hunter’s life, and his family’s, as well,” West said.
The Helping Hunter fundraiser will be held Saturday, Nov. 12, at the Kendall County Fairgrounds in Yorkville. The event will kick off with a bean bag tournament at noon, while other activities such as a silent auction and a raffle for a 2011 Roush Ford Mustang will take place throughout the afternoon and evening. West said teams for the bean bag tournament are currently being assembled.
A chili cook-off is scheduled from 4 to 6 p.m., with winners determined by the votes of those in attendance. Following the cook-off, entertainment will be provided by musical acts Broken Vegas and Back Country Roads.
Anyone interested in attending the fundraiser can pre-order tickets at www.HelpingHunterDarnell.com. Admission tickets are $10 each. A beer wristband for the event is $5. Raffle tickets for the Roush Mustang can also be purchased at the website, and are $20 each (or three tickets for $50).
“We wanted to do this fundraiser as a community. It’s not about any one person,” West said. “The community as a whole, and anyone who knows Shane, Tracy, Kenton or Hunter, will tell you how phenomenal they are as a family. Anyone who knows them would be willing to give everything they’ve got to help them out, and we just want to do everything we can to help them, because we know that if we were in their situation, they would do the same thing for us.”