Goss: Lemont stepping up for Stefanie Banner
By Dick Goss firstname.lastname@example.org September 11, 2013 9:52PM
Stefanie Banner | Supplied photo
Updated: October 15, 2013 6:47AM
Early last month, Mary Banner was helping her daughter, Stefanie, get dressed when she noticed something unusual.
“My wife called me over and said, ‘Look at this,’ ” Greg Banner said. “The left side of her stomach felt hard, the right side was normal.”
Mary took Stefanie to Urgent Care in Lockport, where an X-ray showed a large mass.
Stefanie, 23 months, soon was diagnosed with nephroblastoma, a cancer of the kidneys that typically occurs in children. She had her left kidney surgically removed and has been undergoing radiation and chemotherapy treatments at Lurie Children’s Hospital in Chicago.
“She has five more days of radiation in this set,” Greg Banner said. “If things stay on course, the end of February could be the last chemotherapy treatment. We’re hoping for a full recovery. But she is only about a third of the way through, so there’s nothing definite yet.”
Banner, a North Carolina native employed at Nexeo Solutions in Willow Springs, is an assistant on Eric Michaelsen’s football staff at Lemont. Mary is a Joliet Catholic graduate and a teacher. The family, which includes 8-year-old son Frankie, resides in New Lenox.
Greg Banner has coached football in the area since 2000, beginning with a few seasons on Mike Briscoe’s staff at Minooka. He went from there to Lemont, then to Plainfield South (when Briscoe coached there) and is in his third year back at Lemont, where he also is an assistant girls track and field coach.
The Banners have good friends, as this time of need demonstrates. To help with their medical costs, the families of Lemont’s football staff will take donations at “Make A Difference Day” during the home sophomore and varsity games Friday against Richards, which begin at 5 and 7 p.m.
A Richards-Lemont game is an attraction. Now there is another important reason to attend.
“Everybody at Lemont has been great,” Banner said. “We had just finished summer camp when we found out about Stefanie. I talked to Eric Michaelsen for a long time, and he filled in the other assistants. They all called and wished us well and said if there’s anything they can do ...
“Coach Young (John Young, Lemont athletic director), Eric’s wife, Kim, and John’s wife, Kathy, who is the math department chair at Lemont, everyone has been awesome.”
Banner often arrives for practice a few minutes early and stops in school.
“Everyone asks how Stefanie is doing, and they offer their thoughts and prayers,” Banner said.
“People I used to work with in the P.E. department at Plainfield South have sent cards and thoughts. We have gotten great support from everyone, including Mary’s family and mine.”
For those unable to attend Friday’s game, donations may be made in the Lemont Pupil Personnel Services Office daily from 7:30 a.m. until 3:30 p.m. Or they can be mailed to Michaelsen’s attention at the school, 800 Porter St., Lemont, IL 60439.
“Greg Banner absolutely is one of the best and nicest people I know,” Michaelsen said. “To see him dealing with his daughter ... he is an amazing person.
“When he first told me what they found, he was comforting me. That’s the kind of person he is. I admire how he is handling this.”
Banner has coached college and arena football, in addition to high school. As a Bucknell University assistant, the Midwest was his recruiting area.
“I was on a recruiting tour here and spent Thanksgiving at a friend’s parents’ house in New Lenox,” he said. “That’s when I met Mary (nee Kuk). We started dating and eventually I decided to move here.”
When he arrived, he called Joliet Catholic coach/athletic director Dan Sharp, who did not have a position but directed him to his successor at Minooka, Briscoe.
For most of Banner’s years here, he has been an offensive coordinator. He now serves as Lemont’s running backs coach.
He has given himself to local athletics. Now the Lemont coaching staff and school community is giving back.
“This is a tough thing, but I know Stefanie will be OK,” Michaelsen said.