WASHINGTON, Ill. (WMBD) – A Central Illinois community is remembering a cherished coach while raising awareness and money for cancer research.
The head coach for Washington’s boys basketball team for more than a decade, students and friends said coach Kevin Brown was a fierce competitor, but it was who he was off the court that left an imprint on so many.
“His demands were high on the basketball court, his demands outside as an individual were much higher,” said Nick Finney, Washington basketball player, class of 2011.
“Get him away from anything competitive, he’s one of the nicest, most compassionate, caring and loving individuals,” said Brad Stewart, secretary of KB Strong Foundation board.
In August of 2018, Brown learned he had a brain tumor. He was diagnosed with an aggressive cancer known as glioblastoma.
Following a surgery to remove the tumor he was back on the sidelines months later, but former players admit it was difficult seeing the battle their coach faced.
“We worked as hard as we could to get through it because we knew he was going through some trouble, but it was definitely hard for me personally,” said Devon Vanderheydt, Washington basketball player, class of 2021.
Like he did on the hardwood, Brown fought to the very end but passed away in June 2019. This Saturday, BrownFest returned to Washington. The event brought the community together for fun while raising awareness, research funds, and grant money for others impacted by cancer.
“We’ve got to figure out a way to fix this and prolong the life of anyone diagnosed with this dreadful disease,” Stewart said.
After three years of overwhelming community support, even beyond the city of Washington, Vanderheydt said it is fitting for a person that meant so much to so many.
“He moved a lot of people and that just shows you how with all the people here, how much he inspired those people,” Vanderheydt said.
Stewart said BrownFest has raised nearly $40,000 during the last two years. He also says the KB Strong Foundation $150,000 commitment has been made to the University of Illinois College of Medicine and hopes that commitment will be fulfilled by the end of this year.