Since the time in 2012 when Matt Mammosser was diagnosed with brain cancer and passed away, the family of the 18-year-old Joliet Catholic student has endured immeasurable grief while striving to live their lives.
“We’re trying to remember the good things when you get together with his friends, remember when this happened or that happened,’’ Jim Mammosser said of his youngest son.
“It’s a little easier to smile, but it’s still tough. I would not wish this on anybody, to have to go through this day by day.’’
Through it all, the faith and inner strength of the Mammosser family remains. A clear example of that is “Mammopalooza,’’ the second annual event held to celebrate Matt’s life and benefit those who’ve helped the Mammossers along the way.
Jim, his family and friends have planned the daylong festival of food, fun and music for 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday at Ingalls Park Athletic Club on North Park Road in Joliet.
It’s $5 per person or $15 for a family to get in, with several groups and organizations to benefit from the fundraiser.
“I can remember having talks with Matt about helping people, whether on the football field with a play or going next door to shovel snow for an elderly couple,’’ Jim Mammosser said. “We just want to try to give something back now.’’
“It’s just amazing how many people want to donate and help out and keep his memory alive,’’ said Rachel Mammosser, Matt’s 21-year-old sister who had the idea for the event.
Matt was a 6-foot-2, 240-pound starting defensive lineman as a junior. Rachel said it was one of the Joliet Catholic football moms who suggested the event be called “Mammopalooza” after “Lollapalooza” at Grant Park in Chicago because both events are about bands.
Jim Mammosser said Rachel handles all of the band arrangements. He deals with the food and beverages while his wife, Susan, takes care of mailings, raffle donations, etc.
The 2012 fundraiser was held in October on the same Saturday the state football pairings were announced. It made for some interesting conversation among the football-friendly crowd as word spread about who would be playing whom in the first round of the playoffs.
But the weather turned a little chilly when the sun went down — Jim Mammosser thought the high temperature that day was 50 degrees — so now the thinking is to keep the event in the summertime.
“Everything was great from last year,’’ said Rachel Mammosser, a nursing and paramedic student who kept things running all day on the walkie-talkie. “People coming together, the bands were great, food was great, the raffles were a big hit.’’
This year’s event will feature kids games, a bean bag tournament, four bands and a DJ, raffle baskets and plenty to eat, including hamburgers, hot dogs, chicken sandwiches and pizza.
“We learned stuff from last year, what works and what doesn’t work,’’ Rachel said. “Like my dad said, it’s trial and error.’’
“We were afraid; it’s been over a year and as time passes everybody has their life,’’ Jim Mammosser said. “It’s still emotional and touching that so many people will come out and help.’’
In turn, Jim Mammosser wants to help the groups and organizations that made a difference in Matt’s life. An endowment fund was set up last year at Joliet Catholic to help with tuition in the future.
This year, Mammosser said the event will benefit seven groups: Carle Clinic in Champaign, Lurie Children’s Hospital in Chicago, Joliet Hospice, the Mammo Strong Memorial Fund, St. Mary Nativity School, New Lenox Mustangs and the Providence Early Learning Center.
Jim Mammosser said Matt’s brother, Nick, who’s living in Danville after recently getting married, will be in town for the event.
Some memories of their youngest son, particularly a year after he became ill, weren’t easy for Jim and Susan to handle.
“For me, it was really hard when we got into the January through May period because that’s when Matt got sick,’’ Jim said. “Certain dates come up and you remember what happened on that date, a chemo treatment or maybe a surgery.’’
When Jim Mammosser is around Matt’s friends, he gets the feeling they understand what’s truly important in their day-to-day lives.
“I’ve talked to Matt’s friends,’’ Jim said. “I think they’ve got it. I tell them, ‘Don’t sweat the little stuff. Enjoy the time together.’ ’’
They will at Mammopalooza.
“It’s for a good cause,’’ Rachel Mammosser said. “All these people coming together and having a good time, reminiscing about Matt.’’