Perry-Lecompton Standout Athlete Battles Leukemia

PERRY, Kan. (WIBW) - With a 4.0 grade point average and coming off standout basketball and baseball seasons, Zach Linquist was excited for his senior year at Perry-Lecompton High School.

But instead of weighing scholarship offers, he's dealing with the curve ball life threw him.

Zach was diagnosed with leukemia October 2nd. The only signs wee that he was feeling tired and couldn't put on weight - none of which seemed too unusual for an active 17-year-old boy.

"It hit me pretty hard," Zach said. "You never think it's going to be you. After I stopped feeling sorry for myself, (it was) all happy thoughts."

The attitude was helped because, what looked to be a difficult road ahead, opened the window on a whole new view of his friends and community, who quickly cooked up ways to show their support.

His friend Kaley Visser is selling bracelets that say "Pray for Linq." Another friend, Annie Mehl, is working with a local woman on an inspiration quilt for Zach, selling squares on which people can write funny or motivating messages.

The students also created t-shirts to sell. Plus, an annual class project took on a new purpose. Each year, the economics class and the entrepreneur class wage a business battle to make the most profits. This year, it's the Munchie Monkey versus Wiener Wednesdays, which is actually Zach's group.

While Zach spent four days in Stormont-Vail's Pediatric ICU, his teammates made a decision. Instead of reaping the rewards themselves, they changed their business plan to become a nonprofit organization, with all proceeds going to a fund to help Zach and his family with medical expenses.

"Zach is a good friend to everyone," his co-CEO Austin Johanning said. "There is a lot of incentive to raise money for ourselves, put cash in our pockets, (but) Zach needs the money more than we do."

Zach says he's humbled by the support and it has made him determined to fight his disease that much harder.

His determination, in turn, inspires his classmates. Longtime friend Drew Scrimsher says that while classmates worried about Zach's future, they are bolstered by seeing Zach remain positive and hopeful.

Working with a pediatric oncologist at the Stormont-Vail Cancer Center, Zach will take a daily chemo therapy pill indefinitely. He may one day need a bone marrow transplant, but, if he keeps responding like he has, Zach could return to the basketball court come January or, at the very least, back on the pitching mound this spring.

Having goals, he says, keeps him focused.

"I still want to fulfill my dreams of going to college for baseball," says Zach, who gets a lot of his baseball inspiration from his grandfather, Washburn University baseball coach Steve Anson.

Even if he's sidelined, he says, the community has taught him that he's already won.

"I want people to learn life is a gift," he said. "Be thankful for everyone around you and just cherish every single moment you have in your life."

If you'd like to help Zach Linquist's family with expenses, you can send donations in care of the First State Bank of Perry, 402 Plaza Dr., Perry, KS 66073.