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Out of Tragedy | Two families, one disease and a lifetime of inspiration
Ian Crouch never saw it coming.
Near the end of his junior year at Skyline, Crouch was preparing for a summer full of afternoons at the lake with friends and family trips around the region to club soccer tournaments.
But with one visit to the doctor, all of that changed.
Ian's mother Ingrid had recently had her yearly mammogram; the diagnosis was uncertain and at the same time troubling. Her doctor had discovered an "area of interest," while reviewing the results of the screening and requested Ingrid return the following day for another appointment.
That's when she heard the word she had been dreading.
"Just the way they were phrasing things, I knew," Ingrid said. "They started talking about cancer."
After losing her father to a form of the disease not a year earlier and her mother four years prior, she knew all too well what her doctors were telling her.
For Ian, the reality was as sobering as it was frightening.
"It just hit so suddenly and we weren't prepared for it," the Skyline senior recalled. "That initial blow was the hardest."
With an insurmountable flood of emotions and constant uncertainty of what the future held for his mother and family, Ian Crouch needed someone who had been there before and could provide perspective from experience.
Luckily for him, he didn't have to look far.
The fight of their lives
For nearly 20 years, the White family has been battling cancer.
Skyline senior Tyler White was only a child when his mother Lori was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 1995 and with a grandmother also stricken with the disease, fighting back has been the only approach the family has ever known.
Tyler's father Joe partnered with his wife to host a golf tournament to raise money, promote awareness of the disease and fund research, raising $32,000 in their first attempt.
Then in 2003, both Lori and Joe's mother Mary Ellen Bissell passed away only three months apart. Even despite the devastation of losing two women who filled so many more roles in their lives, both Tyler and Joe White knew what their next move would be.
"On her deathbed, Lori asked me to help other women," Joe said. "So that's what we've been doing."
During her fight with cancer, Lori White was a patient of Dr. Saul E. Rivkin, founder of The Marsha Rivkin Center in Seattle and one of the world's foremost experts in ovarian cancer. The center partnered on the original golf tournament fundraiser the Whites held and also provided an avenue to expand the reach of Joe and Tyler's work.
Five years after the first fundraiser, Joe White joined the board on the Rivkin Center and combined his golf tournament with that of another family going through a similar circumstance. In 2009, he became president of the board of directors and has since grown the fundraising capacity to as much as $3 million annually, 100 percent of which goes to the Rivkin Center.
"It's evolved from a small organization funding maybe two or three doctors," Joe White said. "Now, we're a regional organization funding international research."
In addition, the Whites have provided the perspective and support that Ian and Ingrid Crouch so badly needed.
A first class program
This year, as Joe and Tyler White continued to build the legacy of their departed loved ones, they noticed that once again the disease was hitting close to home; this time taking its toll on the Crouch family.
So just as they always have, father and son worked together in the fight against cancer.
For several years, Skyline coach Gus Kiss (pictured below with Crouch), a partner at Baldwin Resource Group in Bellevue, has awarded a company-sponsored scholarship to a graduating member of his team. With that in mind, the Whites decided to match that effort this year with the "Courage 4 Life" scholarship, named after the original fundraising golf tournament they hosted years before.
The choice for a recipient was an obvious one.
"We thought Ian was well deserving because of who he is as a young man and what has done for the program," Joe White said. "To top it off, he is going through what Tyler went through."
Though from the outside, it would have been nearly impossible to tell what exactly that was.
In addition to being awarded scholarships from The Baldwin Group and the Whites, Crouch was named team MVP for the season after finishing with a 33-9 mark.
He tied the single-season pin record at Skyline with 24, broke the career pin tally with 51 as a Spartan also took the school's single-season takedown record with 71.
It's unlikely any of that would have been possible without the support of the Whites, coach Kiss and the rest of a program that takes caring for its own seriously, even beyond the mat.
"He's a great guy and really inspiring in the way he dealt with his loss," Ian said of Tyler White. "Skyline does a really good job for the wrestling program. They were always there to support me and if I needed to talk there were always guys and coaches there."
The ties that bind
It's still far from easy for Ingrid, Ian and the rest of the Crouch family. There are some lingering effects that can make otherwise thoughtless tasks an obstacle. But the treatment seems to have taken, rendering Ingrid's latest mammogram blank.
For the Whites, the pain of losing Lori and Mary Ellen will never completely fade.
But the once constant onslaught of sadness has been unable to hold its momentum against a surging force of hope the men get from meeting a cancer survivor helped by the work of the Rivkin Center and its fundraising efforts.
"My mom taught us to always give back and it feels good to be able to do it," Joe said. "It feels good to know we impacted someone's life in a positive way."
No one has felt the impact more than the Crouch family.
After sharing in some of the best and worst times of one another's lives, the families will never look at one another in the same light.
"Theres a lot of respect I have for them and their ability to go through what they did," Ian said of the Whites. "We will always be connected."
Josh Suman can be reached at 425-453-5045 or firstname.lastname@example.org