Goss: Human spirit at work to back Mammosser
April 18, 2012 9:36PM
Updated: May 21, 2012 8:15AM
Lexie Dames developed a friendship with Matt Mammosser when the two were on opposite sides of the net “and he would always rag on me” in CYO coed volleyball, Dames at St. Raymond Grade School and Mammosser at St. Mary Nativity.
Later, she learned they are relatives. Their grandparents are first cousins.
Dames is a junior at Minooka, and the 6-foot-2, 240-pound Mammosser, also a junior, started at defensive tackle as Joliet Catholic reached the Class 5A state championship football game in November.
As the calendar turned to 2012, Mammosser and his family received horrific news. He has brain cancer.
“Matt’s birthday was Jan. 13 and he spent it at Children’s Hospital,” his brother Nick, 25, said. “It went from him going to bed one night with flu symptoms to being rushed to the hospital. They found he had something on the brain and he underwent surgery to remove a tumor that later was found to be cancerous.”
Shortly thereafter, Dames learned about her friend and cousin, who has gone through two surgeries, four radiation treatments and this week the first of four chemotherapy treatments, which will be spaced three weeks apart.
“Oh, my gosh, I can’t believe it is happening,” Dames said of her initial reaction. “It didn’t really click with me at first; this was my cousin you’re talking about. I was speechless. I didn’t know what to do.
“But I knew I wasn’t going to sit here and watch my relative that I feel so close to go through this alone.”
She talked with her parents and developed an idea for a Joliet Catholic football T-shirt with a sketch on the front and “Mammo” and his number — 91 — on the back. She began by selling them at Joliet Catholic with the help of her good friend at Minooka, Jamie Huff.
“Now we’ve sold more than 400,” she said. “They’re kind of everywhere. I even sent one to my uncle in Nashville.”
“You’re seeing them around town, and up at Children’s a nurse came walking by and I said, ‘Hey, we have the same T-shirt on,’ ” Nick Mammosser said.
The T-shirt can be purchased through MammosCorner.com, where there also is information detailing “Mammo Day at JCA,” scheduled from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday. Dames’ father, Jeff, helped arrange the benefit festival. Joliet Catholic, Home Depot (where Mammosser’s dad, Jim, is employed) and MammosCorner.com are sponsoring.
Fun activities are planned for kids and adults, and a car wash and raffle tickets for Mammo’s Lotto, a John Deere tractor and a $1,000 gift card to Home Depot will be available.
“What I want to see Saturday is all the raffle tickets gone, people showing up to support Matt and the whole community there,” Dames said.
When Joliet Catholic opens the football season Aug. 24 on the new turf at Providence, Mammosser will be the Hilltoppers’ defensive line captain regardless of whether he is playing.
“Matt is a tremendous young man, a great leader and team player,” coach Dan Sharp said. “He has a sense of humor, and nobody works harder in practice. He loves the game.”
Mammosser has a hearing disability, but that has not deterred him.
“He never used it as a crutch,” said Francis “Rudy” Ruettiger, a Hilltoppers assistant who mentored Mammosser at Rudy’s Gym since he was in eighth grade. “His work ethic is phenomenal. He is exactly the type of kid you would want your daughter to marry.”
“He’s never backed down from a challenge,” Sharp said. “Now, the opponent is cancer.”
Added Ruettiger: “When he found out about this problem, you know what he said? He said he didn’t want to disappoint me in case he can’t be on my powerlifting team this summer. There he is worrying about someone else, like he always does. I told him, ‘You just get healthy.’
“I know he will beat this. He is staying so positive with this enormous situation he is going through.”
When Providence junior linebacker Brian Fordon heard about Mammosser, he wanted to help.
“My dad (Brian) coaches on the sophomore level at Providence, and I asked him about doing something,” Fordon said. “We started brainstorming. I talked with our athletic director, Doug Ternik, and asked him if we could get something going. We’re planning to raffle sideline tickets for that opening game, and I’ll see if our school can come up with anything else.”
Fordon and other Providence captains will wear their jerseys when they attend the festival Saturday.
“I’ve played against Matt a couple times,” Fordon said. “I don’t know him personally, but to hear that happen to a kid close to home, it humbles you down and makes you want to do something.”
One event at the festival is a putting contest. The winner earns a spot in Mammo’s Whack That Ball Golf Outing scheduled June 29 at the Sanctuary.
Jim Mammosser has been a member of the Lemont buildings and grounds staff since 2003 and is responsible for day-to-day upkeep of the Lemont Sports Complex. When the Indians’ softball team hosts Hillcrest on May 3, they will team up to “Strike Out Cancer.” Proceeds will benefit Susan G. Komen for the Cure and “MammosCorner.”
“Isn’t the human spirit something, the way so many want to get involved?” said Ruettiger, who added he will plan something special in Mammosser’s honor for Rudy’s Gym High School Football Powerlifting Championships in July.