Woodbury Rallies to Help Young Cancer Victim

A wiffleball tournament/home run derby benefit for 14-year-old Zach Netten is planned this weekend.

Woodbury resident Leah Schulte said her family has good insurance. They didn’t need any help.

Her fellow youth baseball parents didn’t listen.

This weekend, hundreds of people will come together for a benefit for her son, Zach Netten, who was diagnosed at the outset of the school year with Hodgkin lymphoma.

“They insisted (on a benefit),” Schulte said. “We’re all kind of like family.”

Zach, 14, had a persistent cough going back to last summer. He managed to continue pitching with his East Ridge Athletic Association team this summer, but three days into his freshman year at East Ridge High School, Zach’s doctors told him he has cancer.

“I kind of started freaking out,” Zach said of the day his father picked him up from school.

He had surgery to remove a lymph node from his neck and still has a mass in his chest. Zach, who has played ball for the Woodbury Athletic Association and Woodbury Youth Athletic League, also has a spot on one of his lungs.

The good news is that Zach is expected to make a full recovery, though he shows signs of the chemotherapy he’s had to endure.

“The recovery rate is 97 percent,” Zach said. “How long it’s going to take, we’re not sure yet. … It’ll be a long process.”

He hasn’t been back to school since that first week at East Ridge, but his teammates’ parents stepped up and pooled money to purchase a laptop for him as he works to keep up with his academics from home.

The benefit is set for 2-6 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 21, at the Bielenberg Sports Center. (Check out the PDF with this post for more information.)

“I’ve really been amazed by it,” said Zach, who also enjoys fishing, playing the drums and reading. “I didn’t know how many people cared about me.”

A self-described “sports fanatic,” Zach said he’s disappointed that he won’t be able to try out for basketball at East Ridge this winter, but he is hoping to play baseball this spring. Still, if he can’t play, he said he’d get involved with helping area youth squads or possibly umpiring.

Zach and his family haven’t had anything to do with this weekend’s benefit, Schulte said. But Zach plans to play.

“I don’t officially have a team, but yeah, I’ll toss a ball around,” he said.

Schulte said she has been impressed with the community’s support, and wanted to specifically thank the Degnan, Vrtis, Gerst, Wahlin and Sweeny families.

“They’ve done everything,” she said.

Added Zach: “The baseball community is really coming together.”


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