Friends gather in support of Clarendon Hills man
As his children Delaney and Nate, and wife, Katie, laugh, Rick McGowan enters with a look of disbelief as he realizes a lot of people have showed up to help him out. | Jon Langham~for Sun-Times Media
Updated: July 8, 2012 8:06AM
A fundraising party with about 300 people attending in support of longtime Clarendon Hills resident Rick McGowan was the least some of his friends thought they could do.
McGowan, who turns 54 on June 14, has been an inspiration to many neighbors and friends. He was diagnosed two years ago with anal cancer and has been through a variety of treatments.
“Rick has handled this whole process with class and grace,” said Steve Dockery, one of a group of five people who organized GunnerFest, along with Bob Walsh, Greg Kelly, Ed D’Onofrio and Pat Zilis.
The celebration of McGowan was held Saturday at Arabian Nights Farm in Willowbrook. It was called GunnerFest because of McGowan’s nickname, Gunner, given to him years ago by friends because of his passion for shooting when he plays basketball.
GunnerFest included a variety of catered food and beverages for a ticket price of $50. Dockery said all food was provided by vendors to event organizers at cost; remaining money will be given to two charities chosen by McGowan and his wife, Katie, a lifelong Clarendon Hills resident: Ronald McDonald House Charities and the Jimmy Valvano V Foundation, which supports cancer research.
“Everybody wanted to know what we could do for Rick,” Dockery said. “Some of us started talking along with some of his old school friends, guys he’s known for years. This is just a way for a community to give back to him. He’s been such an inspiration to us with the way he’s dealt with all of this.”
Dockery said he initially expected 100 to 150 people at GunnerFest. But as word got out about the event, interest grew.
“It just shows how much people care about Rick and Katie, and their family,” Dockery said.
Fittingly, McGowan said he has been very inspired during his battle against cancer by the support of friends and neighbors.
“I’m humbled and overwhelmed,” said McGowan, who grew up in Wheeling and has lived in Clarendon Hills for the past 17 years. “Some of my old friends wanted to do something and see me, and some of our neighbors wanted to do something, too.
“The caring they have shown me and my family has been just incredible. When I was first diagnosed, people started bringing meals over. They just want to help and be supportive, and that really has been an inspiration for me.”