Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Fraternal love

Alumni come together to give support, aid family of sick brother

June 5, 2011

As the father of MSU and Pi Kappa Phi alumnus Shawn Koch, Ann Arbor resident John Koch talks about the basketball game fundraiser held on Sunday at Hannah Community Center, 819 Abbot Road, for his son’s benefit. Shawn Koch has brain cancer, so his former fraternity brothers and friends organized the fundraiser to help support Shawn and his wife, Katie, while they cope in Chicago.

Photo by Michelle Martinelli | The State News

Two days after he was diagnosed with brain cancer in January 2010, Shawn Koch was in surgery, and he has since been in chemotherapy and had radiation treatments.

As an MSU and Pi Kappa Phi alumnus, Koch lives in Chicago — with his wife, Katie, and 2-year-old daughter, Charlie Mae — and until a few months ago, he thought he was cancer-free.

After experiencing similar symptoms to what he had before, Shawn Koch visited his doctor because of a headache, only to learn his brain was swollen with blood in it and his tumor had grown back.

Because of his medical condition, Katie Koch said surgery won’t cure him, and no drugs exist to treat him

Due to his condition, Shawn Koch was unable to comment.

“After they told us there’s no more drugs out there for us right now unless some new drug comes out, there’s nothing they can do for him,” Katie Koch said. “So his tumor is growing every day, and we don’t know how much time we have, but he’s still happy every day.”

Hoops for ‘Shorty’
When Shawn Koch’s fellow fraternity brothers learned of his condition, they were eager to show their support for him and his family.

“Shawn is still very much involved with the group that he went to school with here, and they’re very supportive of him, and they come out to Chicago to see him,” said Shawn’s father John Koch.

Offering additional support for Shawn Koch — known to his classmates as ‘Shorty’ — the Pi Kappa Phi alumni organized a basketball game fundraiser called “Hoops for Shorty,” which was held Sunday at Hannah Community Center, 819 Abbot Road.

With a sizeable turnout filling the gym, friends and family organized donations for him, which will go directly to his family.

MSU and Pi Kappa Phi alumnus and East Lansing resident Bill Mansfield said Katie Koch takes care of Shawn Koch, who needs 24-hour care, and for various reasons, their family hit a financial rough patch. Donations go to the Shawn Koch Foundation, which is set up for the benefit of the Koch family to use at their discretion.

“They hopefully won’t have to worry about some financial things for a while, and they can just spend time with each other and not have that hanging over their heads,” said Matt Felan, MSU and Pi Kappa Phi alumnus. “The most important thing for us is that they get to spend every possible moment together as a family.”

Uncertain about how much time she’ll have left with Shawn Koch, Katie Koch said she was very excited when she first learned about the basketball fundraiser. She said her husband is an amazing person, and with his former fraternity brothers organizing an event to help his family, it shows the impact Shawn Koch had while he was at MSU.

“I was just overflooded with emotions,” Katie Koch said. “It was just so sweet for them to do that and to think of our daughter, Charlie, in the meantime, and they wanted to do this for her as well.”

All in the family
Recalling Shawn Koch’s influence on his friends and fraternity brothers, Felan said he wasn’t surprised by the turnout of players and spectators at the fundraiser. With their classmates being in their mid-30s, and many of them having families similar to the Koch family, the Pi Kappa Phi alumni said they can empathize with the family’s situation.

“I have a daughter who’s close to Shawn’s daughter’s age, and when I learned that he was sick and saw his daughter, it tore my heart out thinking of myself in the same spot and just how difficult that is to deal with,” Felan said.

Only ever hearing positive things about Shawn Koch’s fraternity brothers, Katie Koch said everyone coming together for the fundraiser serves as a testament to the kind of people they are.

Although some of the Pi Kappa Phi alumni remain close today, many drifted apart but still showed their support. Mansfield said he was amazed at how many former brothers came together to help out one of their own.

“It really speaks to the kind of house we had and the kind of house we were while we were in school,” Mansfield said. “We were at all times a fun-loving bunch and … cared about each other, and you see evidence of that right now.”

The Pi Kappa Phi brotherly bond extends beyond Shawn Koch’s friends, as MSU chapter adviser Brian Kirsch said many active brothers were interested in the fundraiser too.

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Kirsch — who serves as a liaison between the chapter’s alumni and current brothers — said regardless of the brothers’ financial situations, everyone wanted to help in some way to ensure the Koch family does not have to worry about their finances.

“Most fraternity members, they usually back off after a few years and lose touch,” accounting junior Vincent Caminiti said.
“But us Pi (Kappa Phi’s), we’re a giant family; we always stick together.”

Staying strong
While fighting the cancer remains difficult, Katie Koch said the overwhelming support her family has received is encouraging to both her and Shawn Koch.

Despite never being able to experience the brotherly bond developed in a fraternity, she said she’s as close as she could get to it with the support of Pi Kappa Phi.

The couple remain positive through the fight with the help of friends and family offering constant support.

“We truly feel like we’ve found our soulmates forever, and nobody has a love like ours,” Katie Koch said. “We’re so lucky that we get to share each other’s love, no matter how short-lived it is.
“Cancer doesn’t define us — our love defines us.”

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