Sick children often affect and inspire others. Tyler Frenzel was no different. On December 20, 2002, when Tyler was 7 ½ years old, he was diagnosed with Leukemia. From the day of his diagnosis, Tyler handled his challenge with grace and maturity. In the hospital Tyler received a therapy book called, “My Stupid Illness.” It had a fill-in-the-blank section that read: “Now my life is ___________.” Tyler wrote: “Now my life is new because I got cancer.” Tyler’s amazing acceptance of his plight set the tone for how his family would deal with his illness. To Tyler, cancer was not a devastating death sentence, just a stumbling block along the road of his life.
Tyler initially responded well to treatment, achieving remission within the 1st month, and even returned to the baseball diamond and soccer fields throughout his illness. Following his “wish trip” to Disney World in January 2004, the cancer returned, forcing more grueling chemotherapy and an unsuccessful bone marrow transplant. On December 11, 2004, at just 9 ½ years old, Tyler lost his battle with Leukemia.
During his illness several famous athletes befriended Tyler, including pro baseball player, Scott Rolen and pro football players, Brandon Stokley and Peyton Manning. They brought Tyler smiles and concern, while Tyler inspired them in return. Intrigued with a camp Scott Rolen was building for sick children and their families in Bloomington, Indiana, Tyler donated $2,000 of his own money to Scott to build a treehouse there. He encouraged others to give. After Tyler’s death, Peyton Manning and the Colts helped to raise over $200,000 in a national radio drive to fulfill Tyler’s dream. Today the camp boasts “Tyler’s Treehouse,” a 3,000 square-foot structure encompassing a castle, pirate ship and treehouse for kids of all ages to enjoy! Tyler clearly understood that though he might be here briefly, his inspiration could last forever.
Since Tyler’s death, the Frenzel family has hosted an annual event, “Sunflowers in December,” honoring Tyler’s legacy of giving back to others. In five years of holding the event, Tyler’s family and friends have raised over $87,000 for several charitable organizations, including: Scott Rolen’s Enis Furley Foundation, Peyton Manning’s PeyBack Foundation, The Indiana Children’s Wish Fund, The Lord’s Pantry, and Gary Brackett’s IMPACT Foundation. Instead of mourning, we celebrate Tyler’s life and continue giving back just as Tyler taught us.
Throughout his illness, Tyler kept his faith and hope alive. He faced his challenges with the bravery of a soldier and accepted his suffering with grace and courage. May we all live by the words of Tyler Frenzel: