To Coach, with love: Students support ailing mentor

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Frank Schultz
Thursday, October 17, 2013

JANESVILLE—Friday night's annual grudge match between the Janesville Craig and Parker football teams will be remarkable not so much for the annual antagonism but for the way people pulled together for friends in need.

The story starts with a Janesville man who for years coached girls in soccer, softball and basketball.

Craig High School juniors Betsy Ennis, Maggie Stewart and Aleyha Slatter said their longtime coach, Curt Krueger, is battling brain cancer

The girls were planning to order T-shirts for their traveling basketball team, the Lightning, to wear and show support for their coach. Then the Craig High School football team heard about it and wanted to show support because Krueger's daughter, Amber, is the football team's manager.

They wanted T-shirts, too.

Amber also is a member of the Lightning and a longtime friend and teammate of the girls.

Then the pompon and cheer squads wanted in.

Soon everyone at school was asking for the T-shirts, the girls said.

The team T-shirts turned into a fundraiser as the girls decided to sell the shirts and have everyone wear them Friday at school and at the rivalry match at Monterey Stadium on Friday night. 

Word reached Parker High School, so the Vikings football team plans to wear some pink item—shoelaces or socks or some other item, the girls said.

The T-shirts are tie-dyed pink to honor Curt's wife, Marilyn, who is a breast cancer survivor. The printing is in gray, the color of brain cancer awareness.

The shirts say “Team Krueger” on the front and “Fight like a Krueger” on the back.

The shirts got so popular the girls could have sold a lot more, but by the time they discovered that, it was too late to enlarge their order.

“I wish we had another week,” Maggie said.

They got help from T-shirt printer MMPR. Company owner George Lynch is a friend of the Kruegers, the girls said, and Lynch had helped with a fundraiser when Besty's dad died of cancer a few years ago.

“He gave us a discount so we were able to make more money for the family,” Betsy said.

The proceeds will help with medical costs and the expense of constant trips to and from chemotherapy in Madison, they said.

The girls said they sold about 300 shirts in all. They figured the popularity had something to do with the fact that most people recognize fighting cancer is a worthy cause and because so many know Amber.

“I think, for a big high school, a lot of people were super supportive,” Aleyha said. “Everybody wanted one.”

Marilyn Krueger sent the girls a text message Wednesday. It reads, in part:

“Thank you for rallying around Amber and our family at this most difficult time. We love all you girls and consider each one of you my 'daughters.' I know that Curt is so proud of the young ladies you have become.”

As for Amber, she didn't really know the extent of the project, Betsy said on Wednesday as the girls sold T-shirts in a school hallway.

The girls were expecting Amber to be surprised Friday when she comes to school and sees halls full of shirts with her family's name on them.

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