‘We wanted to do something to help’
Area athletic teams, coaches rally around Banning family following cancer diagnosis
Sports Editor Troy Banning is a familiar face at area sporting events. In his nearly 20 years with the Daily Freeman-Journal, he’s covered hundreds, if not thousands of wrestling and golf meets, basketball games, and softball tournaments. He’s the guy behind the camera, the guy interviewing the coaches, and the man who keeps his Twitter followers up to date.
Now the sports community he has followed is turning the tables by offering its support. You see, Kelly Banning, Troy Banning’s wife of 19 years, was diagnosed with breast cancer on April 22.
A routine mammogram was followed by a recheck and the dreaded wait. She had a biopsy of her breast and lymph nodes in her arm pit.
“That was the longest weekend of our lives,” Troy Banning admitted.
His wife began chemotherapy on May 8 and just finished the first eight-week round of treatment. She starts the next round in July.
“Kelly has invasive ductile carcinoma, which we’re told is the most common form. She is stage 2B. Not great, but certainly not the worst,” her husband said.
“Our lives changed overnight. We went from a healthy family to wondering if Kelly was going to survive in a matter of two weeks. This is unquestionably the worst thing we’ve ever gone through, but at the same time the love and support we’ve received has made this such a special time as well.”
That love and support has poured in from diverse sources.
One benefit is planned for Aug. 4.
“When we heard that Kelly was diagnosed with breast cancer, the kids decided they wanted to do something for the family,” said Marty McKinney, Webster City head boys basketball coach.
“Troy obviously has supported the kids and the athletes and coaches in our town, actually kind of above and beyond, we feel,” McKinney said. “We know Troy, but this is really about Kelly. We wanted to do something to help make it easier for them.”
The kids and coaches kicked around some ideas and finally settled on a golf tournament.
“We know that Troy is big-time into golf, so we got a committee together of students and it’s just kind of taken off. We just want to support the family any way we can,” Marty McKinney said. Eighteen students comprise the committee along with several coaches and parents, as well.
The event will be held Sunday, Aug. 4, at the Webster City Links Golf Course. The 18-hole 4-person best ball tourney will tee off at 10 a.m. Check in is at 9:30 a.m. A silent auction is also planned, along with a meal. Cost per team is $100 with the meal included.
Drake Doering, one of the student athletes spearheading the planning, said that anyone is welcome to come out on Aug. 4 for the meal.
“You don’t even have to play in the tournament. You can come out for the meal and the auction and just support the family,” Doering said.
Pulled pork is on the menu. The silent auction will run from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
The students will be seeking sponsors for each hole. Marty McKinney said each hole will have a different sports theme.
More information on the golf tournament can be found at the Facebook page Benefit for Banning Family. Donations can also be directed to WCF Financial Bank, Attention: Banning Family Fundraiser, 401 Fair Meadow Drive, Webster City, IA 50595.
Also in Webster City, the high school softball team has been raising money, according to Jess Howard, Webster City High School head softball and volleyball coach.
For example, at each home softball game, the team members sign a shirt that is then raffled.
“Tickets are a $1 each and people can buy as many tickets as they want for the shirt,” Howard said. “Then during the fifth inning of the varsity game, we pull it in and announce who the winner is.”
The team is also accepting freewill donations that will go to the Banning family.
A special event is planned for July 8 when a home game will be dedicated to the Banning family.
“When we play Forest City the girls will wear pink shirts for their jerseys and matching shirts will be sold to the community. There will also be a freewill donation and also possibly some items to auction off,” she said.
“Troy has been a big part of a lot of people’s lives in Webster City,” Howard said. “Anybody who goes through any sort of Webster City athletics knows Troy. He’s written about the athletes at their highest points and their lowest points. We want to show him our support.”
South Hamilton sold T-shirts and is doing a freewill donation at the softball tournament and baseball game on Saturday.
The Bannings’ daughter, Taylor, is on the seventh-grade Gilbert softball team. Her teammates wear pink ribbons in their hair during games and a many Gilbert residents have purchased the T-shirts.
“It has blown us away what South Hamilton has done for our family. We’ve had so many people ask what they can do to help and just tell us they’re thinking of us. It’s been incredible. Just to know they’re thinking and praying for us is more than we would ever expect, but they’ve gone above and beyond,” Troy Banning said.
Doering said he was helping with the golf benefit because of the support the teams have always received from Troy Banning.
“He puts the kids first. He doesn’t live here and his kids go to Gilbert schools,” Doering said. “But he’s at every basketball game and every football game. He takes the time to take pictures and write stories about us.”
“He’s done so much for us,” Taylor McKinney, another member of the planning committee, “and we just want to give a little back to help the whole family.”
Marty McKinney agreed.
“Even though he doesn’t live here, he’s a part of the community. It’s more than just writing about games. He really gets to know kids and the coaches. He cares about the kids,” he said.
Finding the right words to thank the coaches and students and other supporters is difficult, Troy Banning said.
“How do you adequately thank people who are literally helping to save your wife’s life? It’s impossible,” he said.
“When I was told that it was students who were organizing the golf event, that’s maybe the greatest gift I’ve ever received. Forget awards or anything like that, I will never receive anything better than what these kids are doing. We will forever be grateful to them,” he said.
Kelly Banning has handled the chemo “like a champ,” her husband said. She has continued to work at Care Initiatives in West Des Moines where she is a recruiting coordinator, missing only one day of work during her chemotherapy.
“My wife is my hero. It’s just that simple,” Troy Banning said. “She’s the strongest woman I know. She has the biggest heart. And she has the positivity that we all dream of having. She’s yet to have a meltdown and she’s never once asked ‘why me?'”