St. Charles East senior Jasper Koenen recalled being a nervous freshman – is there any other kind? – on his first day of high school when he encountered Anna Daley.
Daley was a year older and full of enthusiasm and kindness. She told Koenen how great high school was going to be, encouraged him to just be himself and even walked him to his next class.
Koenen’s admiration for Daley was instant and grew exponentially as she later fought acute myeloid leukemia, a disease that cut her life short at age 17 on May 8, 2012.
Anna’s parents, Sean and Lisa, established the Anna Daley Fighting Saints Memorial Scholarship in her honor, and in the second year of the program, seven honorees received $1,000 scholarships toward college during Wednesday’s senior awards night at East.
Athletic prowess isn’t the focus of the scholarship but the Daleys have a soft spot for Saints athletics; Anna was an ascending East golfer before becoming ill leading up to her junior year. Two of East’s top athletes – soccer standout T.C. Hull and Koenen, a powerhouse tennis player – were among Wednesday night’s honorees.
“It gave me chills,” the Michigan State-bound Koenen said. “It really was an honor. I’m very fortunate to receive money [through the scholarship], but I think the award itself means a lot more to me to be able to live on Anna’s legacy at East and beyond. It was a great evening, and Anna was there in spirit.”
Lisa Daley called Koenen “a gentle giant” who showcases great leadership and determination, characteristics the program was designed to reward.
“This is truly recognizing so many kids that aren’t [necessarily] top academically but show such leadership, such integrity and have a tremendous ability to transcend adversity and to make things positive and make a difference in other people’s lives and are committed to serving others,” Lisa Daley said.
Hull dealt with major adversity as a senior, tearing his ACL for the second time in less than a year just as he was on the verge of salvaging the tail end of his senior soccer season. Hull, a Southern Illinois-Edwardsville recruit, was crushed, but the memory of Daley’s courageous final months helped empower him to remain a supportive teammate.
“Obviously, it was really tough but you have to look at the big picture,” Hull said. “I guess through the team, coaches, school and friends, you’ll be able to get through it. I was lucky enough, and so was Anna, to have friends to lean on throughout the whole thing, and that definitely helped a lot.”
In Hull’s essay applying for the scholarship, he wrote that Daley showed East students “what a true Fighting Saint is.”
“Learning about Anna has inspired me to go above and beyond in college because it shows that you can’t take anything for granted and every day is a blessing,” Hull wrote. “I have been lucky enough to be given many great opportunities in life and I have made the most of them while also helping out others. Anna has taught me to keep a smile on my face no matter what the adversity is in life, and to enjoy every day like it is your last.”
The other recipients of this year’s scholarships are Karolina Borej, Teresa Dang, Mobeen “Farooq” Chaudhry, Mia Scott and William Kennedy.
Sean and Lisa Daley are moving from St. Charles to Tennessee next week but the scholarship program will help them keep their ties to the area.
“It’s just time for us to turn a new chapter and do something different and time for us to leave St. Charles,” Lisa Daley said. “We’ll come back every year to visit friends and continue to keep this legacy and this scholarship very much active at East, but it’s time for us to go carve a niche and see what the next 20 years are going to look like.”
East’s Mollenhauer chooses Milwaukee: St. Charles East girls soccer junior Mallory Mollenhauer has committed to Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
Mollenhauer, a defender for East, was recruited as an outside-midfielder. A club soccer player for Team Chicago, Mollenhauer was drawn to Milwaukee for its strong nursing school along with the Panthers’ soccer program, which competes in the Division-I Horizon League.
She also considered West Point, Southern Illinois-Edwardsville, Western Illinois and Vassar.
North’s Kurtz to play football at Carthage: St. Charles North senior running back/linebacker Evan Kurtz has committed to play college football at Carthage College. Kurtz rushed for 1,185 yards in only eight games as a senior.
Carthage, a Division-III program, competes in the College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin.
• Jay Schwab is sports editor of the Kane County Chronicle. He can be reached at 630-845-5382 or firstname.lastname@example.org.