Walking for Walt


For NMU students who spent the summer in the Marquette, and particularly for those students who spent their days lounging about watching television, it probably comes as no surprise that NMU head hockey coach Walt Kyle has been working with River Valley Bank.

But aside from the local commercials of Kyle on the Berry Events Center ice, River Valley Bank and NMU’s head hockey coach are working together on a more important task than managing finances – the fight against cancer.

Last weekend, River Valley Bank, along with several other local sponsors put on the first annual Walt Kyle Mile, with proceeds going to Marquette’s Beacon House, a non-profit organization that provides lodging and other services for patients and their caregivers traveling to Marquette County for medical treatment.

“When I got involved with [River Valley Bank], one of the reasons I got involved was because they wanted to be involved in the community. And they wanted to do something that would benefit the people in this community,” Kyle said. “So we put our heads together and we came up with this idea.”

Kyle is a two-time bone cancer survivor, and the issue of cancer awareness hits close to home for him.

“20 years ago I had two separate battles with bone cancer. So, I was fortunate enough and blessed to have another 20 years up to this point, and I know that there’s a lot of people that are going through the same trials that I did,” Kyle said. “You need help to do it, and to me, it was just the natural thing to do.”

Marcy Griffen, the executive director of the Beacon House, said she was impressed with the community participation in the event.

“It was absolutely incredible,” Griffen said. “We were so pleased with the turnout.”

Patients and their families and friends who stay at the Beacon House often stay between six and 10 weeks, and Griffen said events such as the walk provide funding that is important in keeping the Beacon House running.

“Events like this exemplify the spirit of the U.P.” Griffen added. “It’s people helping people.”

At press time, Griffen did not have the final numbers of how much money was raised from the event, but said the event was definitely a success.

“Both in terms of dollars raised and turnout, the event far exceeded expectations,” she said.

For the event, Kyle walked the three-mile route from River Valley bank to Lake Superior and back alongside his hockey team and numerous other NMU athletes, including the basketball teams.

“The basketball teams, both men and women showed up,” NMU hockey senior defenseman Derek May said. “So it wasn’t just us, but it was more of a good showing from the athletic department as a whole. That was definitely nice to see.”

For the hockey team, the event was a good opportunity to come together at the beginning of the semester, get some exercise and do it all for a good cause, he added.

“It was a nice thing for Walt, and the many other people that are dealing with cancer in their family, or them themselves,” May said. “It’s definitely a good feeling to see everyone come together and raise some money for a good cause.”

Junior forward Billy Smith said he enjoyed being able to participate in the event, both for his head coach and the others who are battling, or who have battled cancer.

“Obviously, anybody who goes through an experience like that – just being able to show your support for someone whose determined and is able to work through something like that, it’s impressive and a good feeling,” Smith said. “It was a good way to start the season.”

Senior forward Nick Sirota was especially passionate about the event, having one family member currently battling cancer.

“It hits home, it hits home a lot,” Sirota said. “Obviously, the only thing you can do is support them. From Walt’s experience, he got through it with friends and family and came out on the good side from battling cancer.”

Overall, Kyle felt the event was a success, and was hopeful that would expand for the second annual edition.

“I think that for the first year – judging by the participation – we got a lot of corporate sponsors in the community and we got a lot of other people involved,” Kyle said. “We were really happy with the turnout for the run and walk, and we hope that it can just grow again next year and expand.”