Tyler Genneken passed away on November 4, 2009. Our deepest sympathies are with his family. Tyler lives on as a champion in all of our hearts.
Tyler Genneken became a Riley Champion the day he walked into Riley Hospital three years ago.
Diagnosed with acute lymphocytic leukemia during a family vacation, the Gennekens rushed home to check Tyler into Riley. During his first appointment the oncologist asked Tyler if he wanted to participate in a clinical study. It would mean more spinal taps and procedures, but Tyler didn’t hesitate. Knowing this study might help other leukemia patients, he immediately said yes.
Tyler never stopped saying yes to helping others during the difficult years that followed. Seeing how important blood donations were for him and other cancer patients, Tyler and his family became actively involved in organizing and participating in blood drives. Tyler also joined his family in numerous presentations and appearances to support Riley Hospital and share his story.
This summer, just as Tyler was nearing the end of his chemotherapy treatment, he learned that his leukemia had relapsed. A bone marrow transplant was now his best hope for what he and his family often called “beating the beast.”
With no match in his family, Tyler’s doctors turned to the national bone marrow registry, only to learn there was no match. As his family and friends began to plan bone marrow drives, Tyler voiced what he wanted most: for 500 people to join the registry. Maybe they would find a match for him. But what was clearly most important to Tyler was that someday, somewhere, someone would receive a match because of these efforts.
Prompted by Tyler’s challenge several successful bone marrow drives were held in his home community of Greenwood. On September 26, four simultaneous Tyler Genneken/Riley Children’s Foundation Bone Marrow Drives were held throughout Indianapolis, co-sponsored by Kohl’s, Emmis Communications, WTHR-Channel 13, the Indiana Blood Center and the Indianapolis Colts. In that single day more than 1,400 people joined the registry.
In October, Tyler’s school decided to host a major fundraiser on Tyler’s behalf. He asked them to raise funds for the Little Red Door camp for cancer patients, which he had attended. And, most recently, when a gentleman deeply touched by Tyler’s struggles and generosity asked what he could do for him, Tyler asked if he could help equip an activity room for teenage cancer patients at Riley Hospital.
With fireworks bursting behind him, Tyler walked into Riley Hospital on July 4, 2006. Since that day he was determined for something meaningful to come from something as senseless as an 11-year-old being diagnosed with leukemia. That meaning can be found in the thousands of people who Tyler inspired to believe that they can and should make a difference and the generations of people whose lives will be impacted because of this young man’s great heart.