O’FALLON, Mo. – Students in the Fort Zumwalt School District are rallying behind their classmate's family after they learned his father was diagnosed with incurable cancer. A video posted to the district's Facebook page shows how the community is coming together to face this fight together.
Last week, Brian Froneyberger arrived at Fort Zumwalt West High School with his wife and daughter to watch his son, Gage, play varsity football.
“I looked down, and I see this shirt,” said Froneyberger. The front of the shirt reads "Jaguars" for the school's mascot. The first "a" has been replaced by a maroon ribbon to represent the type of cancer Froneyberger is battling. Below that is the hashtag #brianstrong.
The back of the shirt says "Together We Fight." A simple phrase, but on that night, it spoke volumes.
What Froneyberger and his family didn’t know was his Gage’s friends had rallied the troops, and the Jaguar family was united as one.
“We ordered 800 t-shirts and all of them were gone in just 24 hours,” said Geo Houston, Gage's best friend. Houston and a few other friends had the t-shirts printed to support the Froneyberger family, both financially and in spirit.
"I just was in shock," said Gage. "Truly great friends that I have, and great people around me.”
Students sold the t-shirts at school during lunch. Purchasers were instructed to wear the shirts at the next football game to show their support.
“Kids, family members, the football team, the dance team, everybody wearing this," said Froneyberger. "All supporting me and my family.”
At the football game, Gage surprised his dad with a shirt of his own.
"He's always been there for me," said Gage. "He’s been my coach my whole life. He’s a great dad.”
The power of unity could be felt throughout the stadium, from the field to the bleachers, and to the locker room.
In the viral video, head football coach Neil Nowack tells the varsity football team “This program this week reminded me that football's just a game. You guys put in perspective that X’s and O’s are just a small part of what we do.”
Nowack said he was proud of how the team, particularly the seniors, stepped up to show their support for their friend and teammate. He told Fox 2 he was impressed when he looked up into the stands at the game and saw nearly the whole crowd sporting the fundraiser shirts.
About three years ago, Froneyberger was diagnosed with squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck. He didn’t respond to chemo, radiation, or surgery and the cancer spread. It is now incurable, recurring and in stage four.
Froneyberger is participating in a trial in Houston and making frequent trips to Texas for treatment. Proceeds from the shirts will help fund his travel.
“He’s a fighter, I’ll say that,” Gage said about his dad.
Two years ago next month, doctors gave Froneyberger just two years to live.
“So right now, I’m fighting to beat that prognosis, honestly," he said. "I’m fighting to be here for my family for longer than that, as long as I can be.”
Now he knows he won’t have to fight alone.
The students raised more than $10,000 for the Froneybergers by selling t-shirts with proceeds being donated to a GoFundMe account. They have already put in another order for more shirts in hopes of raising even more money.
See the full video created by Juan Wilson, Coordinator of Diversity and Awareness for the Fort Zumwalt School District. #FZiAm