The 2013 football season at Western Oregon University ended on a powerful note with a game that will be remembered for both the hard fought victory on the field (32-26 Wolves) and for the heartfelt, collective hopes of the team and crowd for a victory for Jon Apgar off the field.
In 2001, Arne Ferguson, head coach for the Western Oregon University Football team, recruited Jon Apgar from Toledo High School to play linebacker. Jon played for Western from 2002 through 2005 and was known for being a good student and good athlete with a work ethic that stood out on and off the field. After graduation, he went on to play arena football for a few years before playing for the Danube dragons in NFL Europe for two years. After moving back to the United States, Jon married his wife, Megan. The two of them have recently expanded their family with the birth of their little girl, Addison. It would appear as though everything was falling in place for this young family.
Unfortunately, the Apgar family faced a devastating and unexpected blow over the summer. Jon was diagnosed with stage four kidney cancer and, for the past several months, has been battling this extremely aggressive disease. If attitude and determination have anything to do with surviving cancer, Jon’s friends would say that he has what it takes. He has been through two surgeries and is currently going through chemotherapy treatment, “he’s a fighter… a tremendous person, a good husband and a good father, this is a celebration of a young man who’s very competitive,” says coach Ferguson.
Daniel Sims, one of Jon’s best friends, former teammate and roommate from college, put together the event “Jon Apgar Day” which took place before and during the final home game, on Saturday November 9th. This event was a celebration (as stated by Ferguson) and a fundraiser to help with the extensive medical costs being incurred by the Apgar Family. There were T-Shirts with #51 (Jon’s college number) on them, donation boxes, and raffle tickets. The proceeds of these would go into a fund for Jon’s medical care and treatment. “He’s a guy that you always really, really loved being on your team, you knew he would always have your back and was there for you,” said Sims “he became a brother about as quickly as you met him,” he added, “he adopted your family and your family adopted him, he was more than a teammate, a roommate, or a friend, he was family” put in another college roommate and teammate; Jeff Cloud.
The Apgar event was created on Facebook and over 150 people RSVP’d. The parking lot and eventually stadium were full of black shirts with Apgar’s number, orange bracelets saying either “no one fights alone” or “Team Apgar.” The players all wore their black uniforms with orange socks and orange bows on the back of their helmets; because orange is the color of the kidney cancer bow. Jon, accompanied by his wife, daughter, and ICU nurse came from the Salem Hospital, where he is currently receiving care, to attend the tailgating and the game. One of the most memorable moments occurred at the beginning of the game when the staff, alumni, current players, cheerleaders, family, and friends of Apgar created a tunnel from the gate to the center of the field. Apgar, who is currently in a wheelchair, and his family, came through the tunnel to the center of the field where he was presented with a signed ball and honored before the start of the game. A jersey with his number was hung on the track during the game.
It was clear to me after talking to friends, teammates, coaches, and acquaintances that Jon is the kind of friend you would want to have and a family member you would be proud to claim. “Jonny was always loyal to his true friends, even through his travels he always stayed in contact with his friends. He called, and stayed in close contact, he never forgot who his real friends are. Even though we’re all settling in, getting married and have having kids, we’re still best friends. We can go months without seeing each other and when we get together it’s as if we’ve seen each other every day. We know we can always pick up the phone and the other will be there. Jonny could always make anybody laugh, you, your mother, and your grandmother could all be in the same room, he could say something that nobody else could say and everybody would laugh. Jonny could say anything that came to his mind, but he never crossed the line,” explained Jeff.
Jon Apgar is likely fighting the toughest battle of his life and it was very clear from talking to those who know him that it’s a fight worth fighting. Jon has a strong support network, and refuses to. Medical treatment is challenging and expensive and positive thoughts, hopes, and prayers are always welcome. If you can do more and would like to help Jon fight this battle, you can donate to the Jon Apgar Fund online via Facebook or at any Wells Fargo.
To conclude the 2013 football season, Western Oregon rallied and, as a team, beat Central Washington. At the same time, Team Apgar formed a community and support flowed in showing Jon Apgar and everybody else that no one fights alone.
By Devin Lowrey