[This article appeared last Friday in our game day paper.]
I usually save this last regular season column for a long goodbye and thank you to everyone who helps with, writes for, reads or touches this paper in one way or another. Today, I'm not doing that. You all know how thankful I am to be able to do this and how thankful I am to everyone who supports us.
Today, instead, I'm turning over a good chunk of this space for someone else to say thank you.
Back in January we let go of the secret that our vendor, Clarence, had cancer and was about to undergo some pretty aggressive treatment for the disease. At the time, we asked for everyone to keep him in your thoughts and, if possible, to help out our friend with a cash gift if you thought that was appropriate. As we mentioned at the time, Clarence and his family aren't in dire need by any means, but the unforeseen costs and missed work were going to put a serious hurt on the family.
You all, of course, made an unbelievable showing of it. Emails and donations poured in to The Clarence Fund we set up. We were able to give Clarence and his family a much-appreciated gift of cash, the vast majority of which was given to us in amounts of $20 or less. Our frenemies at The Committed Indian/Second City Hockey put out the word, too, proving that rivals can find common ground, and the Blackhawks fans were generous as well (including one guy who wondered if his check would be cashed since it was printed with a Indian head logo on it).
Just as important were the emails and letters and cards. We gave Clarence a thick folder full of them as motivational reading during his stay in the hospital. He told me at the time that it was hard to read more than a few at a time without his vision becoming suddenly blurry with some sort of salty discharge. Obviously, everyone's encouragement made a big impact.
We received money and support from California to Florida, Texas to Michigan and even a couple from over in England. Clarence has officially gone world-wide.
We expected Clarence to recover from his treatment and to hopefully back out selling the paper for us by today. As we should have foreseen, Clarence came back to us way too early - in February. He's a bit skinnier and the job takes more of a toll than it did before, but you can tell that he wouldn't miss another game with all of us if he could help it. His resolve is amazing.
A few days ago, Clarence asked me if he could write a few words to let everyone know how thankful he is for what everyone did for him. And so, here is his letter:
First of all, I want to thank my Lord and Savior for letting me have the chance to write this thank you.
Second, to our great [Editor's Note: Debatable] leader, Publisher and Editor-in-Chief Sean Gallagher who organized The Clarence Fund. Our family will never forget you.
Third, to all the St. Louis Game Time staff and friends and to the St. Louis Blues fans for your donations, prayers, hugs, well wishes, cards, emails and everything else. Thanks!
Everything that was done for us really helped out - with medical bills, family expenses and plenty of other things. I don't know where I would have been without ALL of you.
My condition is getting better day by day. It's going to be a long road, so I still need all of your prayers.
I am going to beat this thing. As so many of you have said to me, and to keep this from getting too serious in the paper and online, I want to say, "F Cancer!"
I seriously just want to finally say, Thanks, thanks and thanks.
Forever your friend,
P.S.: Thank you, too, to the Blackhawks fans who helped out as well, that meant a lot.
What Clarence hasn't mentioned here and still hasn't really told anyone else is that the procedure he went through to attack this cancer was bigger and more costly and more risky than he let on. His doctor apparently told him they were, "going for a home run" with this particular operation.
He finally let me know last week that after taking out parts of his stomach and a lot of his lymph nodes, Clarence Walker is now cancer-free.
I don't think I could come up with a better way to end this annual ‘thank you' column then to tell you all how much you impacted Clarence's life with your unbelievable support. Oh wait, I do have one better way to end this column. I'll just say this one more time:
Clarence Walker is cancer-free.