Thursday, September 20, 2012


Last month I was looking through some old things in storage when I found a story I had written in 1999 for The Signpost, our school newspaper.  Back then I was a sportswriter and one of my assignments was to write a story about an inspirational athlete.

Luckily, I happened to be friends with one.

As I read what I wrote all those years ago, I reminisced about my old friend.  And I smiled.

And then I cried.  Because today, the story holds new meaning to me.

Kyhaunn Woods played football and ran track for Weber State University from 1995-1997.  After playing football and running track, he then served as the iconic mascot of the Wildcats, Waldo.  And as Waldo, Kyhaunn brought his heart and soul to the role.  He made Waldo hip.  He made Waldo fun.

He made Waldo... Waldo.

In his time at Weber State, Kyhaunn made thousands of Weber State athletes and fans smile while he was on the field, on the track or performing as Waldo.

More importantly, he made us smile when he wasn't. 

He made us smile because he was always smiling.  He was always positive. Kyhaunn loves Ogden.  He loved his time in Utah.  He loved the clear air here.  He loved the mountains.  He loved the things that we often take for granted, like being able to see stars in the sky or playing in the snow.  Those were new experiences for him - a kid from Watts - that he took into his heart and was grateful for.

On Christmas Eve 2011,  Kyhaunn was diagnosed with glioblastoma multiforme, a very aggressive form of brain cancer. After months of chemotherapy and other treatments, an MRI showed that the tumor is growing and his treatments are no longer working.  At this point, there are no more treatment options and his family has decided to go into hospice and give Kyhaunn comfort and quality of life until he is called to go Home.

Since the day Kyhaunn was diagnosed, he has never once felt sorry for himself or asked why me?  According to his wife Andie, his faith has never wavered.  Kyhaunn has always been an inspiration even before he was diagnosed with cancer, and his courageous battle for his life has only exposed what type of man Kyhaunn truly is.  

When I interviewed Kyhaunn for that story in college all those years ago, he said:

"The best thing about being here is all the great friends that I have now.  It has really given me a different perspective on the world."

In the last week since finding out that the treatments he's been receiving did not stop the growth of the tumor, many of us who know and love him have felt helpless. And angry.  He's too young for this to be happening.  It's not right.  It's not fair.  It's impossible to comprehend why Kyhaunn and his family have to suffer through this.

Ultimately, it makes us stop to think about how short life really is.

Many of us are hundreds of miles away and there's nothing we can do to comfort him and his family.  We can't take the cancer away.  We can't fathom why this awful thing has to happen to such an amazing spirit.  Our minds can't face the reality that someone with so much life in him - someone who lives his life without regret or contempt - could be taken from us so soon. 

I have been at a loss as to how to show him and his family how much they mean to me.... how he gave me a different perspective on the world.  And I imagine that many of his friends feel the same.  How can we help?  What can we do?

I've shed a lot of tears for my friend in the last few months.  I have searched my soul for answers and a way to help. The best answer I've come up with is that we help him and his family by letting him know that we care. We help them by reminding not just Weber State, but all of Ogden, what a great man he is and what a great ambassador of the Wildcats he has been.  We need to let Kyhaunn and his family know that his example lives on in each one of us, and that he has made and continues to make a difference in our lives. Even if we didn't realize it at the time.

Kyhaunn needs to know what we all know:  That his time spent here on earth?  It has been well spent.  He has touched more lives than he could ever realize.  His three beautiful children need to know that.  They need to know how much their father was loved and cherished by his teammates, his friends, his school and his community. This is his legacy.  Kyhaunn is everything that is right with college athletics.  But more importantly, Kyhaunn is everything that is right in the world.

Saturday, Weber State will be honoring Kyhaunn at halftime of the Homecoming game.  Friends and former teammates will be there as they always are for the annual game.  My hope is that those in attendance can somehow pay tribute to the man who once ran the field, leaping high to catch a pass for a touchdown.  I hope that we can pay tribute to the man who raced across the finish line at track meets, setting new records and dreaming of being an Olympian like his hero Jesse Owens.  I hope that we can pay tribute to the man who set the standard for what it means to be Waldo.

But more importantly, I hope we can pay tribute to the man who followed his heart even when the odds were stacked against him.  Because that man needs our support right now. His family needs our support right now.  And even if all you can give that man and his family is love... that's enough. 

Fans love passion.  They love heart.  And Kyhaunn.... he's all heart.  Kyhaunn is why we are fans.  We cheer for the underdog.  And we cheer for the good guy.

Kyhaunn is both.

If you have a special story about Kyhaunn, please feel free to share it in the comments section or email me by clicking here.  I will compile them and share them with his family.

And if you have more than love to give and want to help his family with the massive medical bills, please click on the donation button below.

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