WEST CHICAGO – Dan Horyn had been running since he was in middle school. The Community High School Class of 1997 graduate continued his running career all through high school, and when he packed his belongings for the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, he took his fleet feet and love of the sport along with him to run for the university.
After graduation, Dan became an English teacher at Niles North High School, where he also coached cross country and track, sharing his knowledge and experience with his students. He ran, practiced vegetarianism and didn't smoke.
The diagnosis of esophageal cancer in 2012 stunned him and his family, and his death from the disease one year later at age 34 left a gaping wound in those who loved him.
"You never get over it," said Dan's mother, Ellen. "It leaves a hole in your heart, but we are coming around."
To honor Dan's memory, the Horyn family and family-friend Terry Yormark II have teamed up to form the Daniel M. Horyn Scholarship Fund to raise money for scholarships for student-athletes like Dan.
The inaugural Dan Horyn Strikes for Scholarships event will take place from 7 to 10 p.m. Saturday at Bowling Green, 243 W. Roosevelt Road in West Chicago.
All event profits will go to the scholarship fund, Yormark said.
Eddie Volkman, formerly of the B96 "Eddie & JoBo Morning Show," will emcee the event, which also will include a raffle and more than two dozen silent auction items, such as White Sox, Cubs and Bulls tickets. The second raffle is solely for an opportunity to win a new car by sinking a half-court basketball shot at a Community High School pep assembly Sept. 19.
West Chicago car dealership Haggerty Ford is sponsoring the Basketball Challenge. Tickets for this raffle will be sold at the bowling event, as well as online at www.strikes4scholarships.net and at the Haggery Ford offices on 330 E. Roosevelt Road. Tickets are one for $5, three for $10 and 10 for $20. The winning ticket will be drawn Sept. 12.
This is the first event the fund is hosting to raise money for two $2,500 scholarships to be awarded to one male and one female track or cross-country athlete who best characterizes the leadership, sportsmanship and achievements Dan exhibited as a West Chicago athlete, student and citizen, Yormark said.
"With Dan it was never just about athletic prowess," he said. "Dan would treat everyone the same whether you were popular or not. He was the best person I have ever known. He was just as good in track and cross country as he was as a person."
Yormark watched Dan exhibit this characteristic in action during a University of Illinois track meet.
"I distinctly remember cheering him on as he crossed the finish line. He finished the meet strong, and at the end, he vomited," he said. "He turned around and went back to the finish line to cheer on his teammates because he was hoping they would get their personal best. He didn't take a cool down lap for himself."
Dan's former coach and current Community High School cross-country and track coach Paul McLeland also recognized the special characteristics that made Dan who he was.
"Dan was a passionate guy, not only in his drive to be the best at running, but also in his writing and kindness towards others," McLeland said in an email to Suburban Life Media. "He sometimes appeared to be naive, but that was actually a depth of kindness that boggled most minds."
The one-year anniversary of Dan's passing will be Sept. 9. It is the hope of the Horyn family and Yormark that the scholarships become an annual event, though they felt Dan might have been more comfortable on a platform accepting a running award rather than a scholarship named after him.
"He wasn't boastful," said Dan's father, Mike. "But he would be touched by the idea."
If you go
WHAT: Strikes for Scholarships benefiting the Daniel M. Horyn Scholarship Fund
WHEN: 7 to 10 p.m. Saturday
WHERE: Bowling Green Sports Center, 243 W. Roosevelt Road, West Chicago
COST: Tickets are $35 by registering at www.strikes4scholarships.net. Cost includes two games of bowling, shoe rental, food and soft drinks. There will be limited tickets available for purchase at the door.
How to help
Go to www.strikes4scholarships.net to purchase tickets for Strikes for Scholarships or to make a donation.