After mentoring and coaching so many local youth soccer players, the Brighton community is rallying to help Brighton graduate and former Varsity Soccer Coach Mark Howell.
Howell, 30, was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in mid-November, just weeks after the birth of his first child, Gabriel. After undergoing a 10-hour surgery to remove 18 pounds of affected area - including parts of his pancreas, stomach, large intestine, colon and his gall bladder, Howell will have to undergo chemotherapy treatments for the next year or longer.
Because Howell and his family will have to pay for his treatments out of pocket, the Brighton community is organizing a fundraiser for to help his pay medical bills.
The event will be held Jan. 31 at Crystal Gardens Banquet Center in Howell from 6:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. and will include hors d' oeuvres, music, live and silent auctions.
Brighton business owner Barb Binkley is one of the event organizers. She met Howell eight years ago when he started coaching her son, Mark Jr., in soccer.
"I love this kid to death, almost like he was my own son," she said. "He and my son - they just clicked, they just bonded and he became my kid's big brother. He taught him, he coached him, he mentored him. And I know he's done that for lots of kids. But he and Mark Jr. - it's like they have the same name for a reason. They're two peas in a pod. He helped us all the way through Mark's school year's and getting him ready for college. And beyond that he just always took Mark under his wing. And I would not be the only parent to tell you this. He just has the biggest heart in the whole wide world."
Binkley said she really got to know Howell because she did all the fundraising for the high school soccer team.
"We were there when he decided he was going to ask Christina to marry him," she said. "We designed his ring together - he and I spent hours doing that. We've been there for every step of their lives and there's just no way that I wouldn't have jumped in (the fundraiser) to do whatever I could."
Binkley said she hopes to raise between $30,000 and $40,000 for Howell's medical expenses.
"Mark met with oncologist this week and they met with a financial person who told them that each chemotherapy treatment can range from $3,000 to $100,000 a piece," she said. "We're just going to keep raising money. If we have to hold more events, we'll hold more events. Whatever we have to do."
Ed Koss, brother-in-law to Howell's wife Christina, said the family has more to deal with than just the cost of the chemotherapy treatments.
"There's other expenses, like Christina having to put Gabe in daycare to take Mark to his appointments," he said.
The fundraiser will also include a cash bar, with entertainment provided by "House of Cards", with special musical guests Paulina Jayne and X Factor's Jeffrey Gutt.
Auction items will include a package for five to spend the day with the Michigan State University soccer team, a week-long stay at a home in Cabo, dinner for 10 people from Outback Steakhouse, a Michigan fly fishing package and more.
Tickets cost $40 for adults, $25 for youth 17 and under and are available online or at at First Impressions, Cooper & Binkley Jewelers, Bink & Babs Boutique, Brighton Physical Therapy and Soccer World.