During his final days of life, Andrew Weishar had difficulty communicating with family and friends. The cancer that had been diagnosed 30 months earlier had left the 21-year-old too weak to speak.
Before he passed away, however, Andrew made it a point to tell his family to “pay forward” the overwhelming acts of kindness and generosity he had received during a nearly three-year battle with colorectal cancer.
The Weishar family is putting Andrew’s words into action.
On Sept. 1, the Andrew Weishar Foundation will hold Weishfest 2013, a 10-hour fundraiser/celebration/remembrance at Standard Bank Stadium in Crestwood. Along with food and beverages, three local bands — Sean and Charlie, Infinity and Trippin’ Billies — will provide nonstop entertainment. Doors open at 2 p.m.
“A week or two before he passed, there was a candlelight vigil at our house and a couple of hundred people stopped by for several hours,” said Dan Weishar, Andrew’s brother. “Andrew said to make sure we give back to the community for all they’ve done for him and our family.”
Colorectal cancer was one of the few battles Andrew lost in his much too brief but successful life. A 2009 Brother Rice graduate, Andrew excelled in football, was captain of the basketball team and, with a 4.0 grade-point average, an Illinois State Scholar.
In April 2010, just prior to completing his freshman year at Illinois Wesleyan, Andrew was diagnosed with colorectal cancer. He died in October 2012, leaving behind a legacy filled with kindness, character and inspiration.
“He fought it with all he had,” Dan Weishar said of his brother. “He showed courage and strength. His body was so broken down from the disease, but Andrew was never too sick to say, ‘thank you.’ ”
A disease, whether it’s cancer or Alzheimer’s, not only affects the victim, it causes great emotional, physical and, in many instances, financial hardship on family and friends. The Weishar family, sports royalty in the Southland, experienced that firsthand.
The encouraging words and acts of support from family, friends and even strangers not only provided comfort to Andrew, it allowed the Weishars — mom, Jean; dad, Bob; sons Dan and Nic — the strength to cope and carry on.
Weishfest is the catalyst that will allow the Andrew Weishar Foundation to provide assistance to those in need — be it emotional or financial. A $20 donation gets you in the doors to Weishfest. A $50 donation not only gets you inside Standard Bank Stadium, it includes all the food and beverages, which includes beer and soda, one can consume.
A stage for the bands will be set up in the infield of the stadium.
“We wanted to do something that will raise money and allow us to help the South Side community that helped pull us through the horrible situation that Andrew went through,” Dan Weishar said. “We want to give back to the organizations that helped us. Our main goal is find families who are going through similar situations we went through and help them. We know there are many families in the area that need help. We want them to know they’re not alone.”
If all goes well, bigger acts may be added to the bill for Weishfest 2014. There have been whispers of REO Speedwagon and Styx, both have members with South Side roots, maybe joining in the future.
“We’d like to bring in some national acts,” Dan Weishar said without mentioning names. “We want to keep making it bigger and bigger and be able to help more people. Right now, we’re just focusing in on Weishfest 2013. It’s going to be a fun day.”
For an incredible cause.