William Levasseur was home-schooled until it was time for high school and he decided to go to Hereford High. He already knew many of the students there since he had played on a Hereford Recreation Council travel soccer team the previous year.
In his freshman year, he and the rest of that team all made Hereford's junior varsity team as freshmen.
His freshman had just ended when "Will" lost his 18-month battle with brain cancer on July 3, 2011.
Now, those soccer teammates and their coach have all signed up to participate in a Relay for Life event at the school's track to benefit the American Cancer Society on April 21 and organized by fellow students to honor the life of Will Levasseur.
"Will was a silent warrior," said Brett Baier, Hereford JV soccer coach. "He was going through chemo during soccer season, but he wanted to play whenever he was feeling OK. He was a hard worker who led by example."
Rallying friends, community
The Hereford Relay came about after Hereford junior Monica Benson, of Phoenix, attended a Relay event at Loch Raven High School. She was so impressed that she convinced her friends — Rachel Guthall, Caitlin Schmelz, Rachel Neu, Greta Hasler, Jackie Howard and Meg Clark — to organize one at Hereford.
They formed a Relay club and asked math teacher Patricia Middleton to be event sponsor. They also attended last year's Relay at Johns Hopkins University on April 29 to see one firsthand.
Each committee member is in charge of one aspect of the event. Guthall will coordinate food, Benson is responsible for the luminaries, Schmelz is in charge of logistics, Hasler will handle the survivor lap, Howard is in charge of getting business sponsor, and Clark is handling entertainment.
"It's fantastic that a group of students decided to do this," said Molly Schreiber, community manager at the American Cancer Society's White Marsh headquarters. "I've been meeting with them regularly, but they've just taken this on and run with it. It's going to be fantastic."
The evening starts with an opening ceremony at 5 p.m. at which Will's father, Bill Levasseur, will speak.
"Will was such an amazing person," Levasseur said. "This community rallied around us with prayers, letters, emails and gifts. At the Relay, I'll talk about the struggles Will and our family went through, the worthiness of giving to the American Cancer Society and the need for pediatric brain cancer research."
Doctors discovered Will's brain tumor after he had a seizure in November 2009. The avid snowboarder underwent surgery, radiation and chemotherapy before he died in July.
"Will loved to do just about anything," said Luke Wickiser, a Hereford sophomore who played soccer with Will. They met a few years ago when they both played baseball for Prettyboy Recreation Council. "I was home-schooled, too, and we both decided to go to Hereford. He was definitely ready for it."
Wickiser said Will never talked about his cancer and still snowboarded while he was going through treatments.
"I just treated him like he wasn't sick," he said. "He would be a little embarrassed about the Relay being for him, but he'd think it's kind of cool, too."
Will's soccer teammate Tyler Oursler called him very upbeat and very caring.
"He'd go out of his way to help you. I remember one day he was supposed to have chemo, but he skipped it to play soccer. That's just the way he was."
Levasseur's talk will be followed by a lap around the track by cancer survivors.
A luminaria ceremony starts at 7 p.m. when candles in sand-filled bags are lighted. The public can buy luminarias to honor someone fighting cancer or remember those who lost their battle with the disease.
The student Relay committee is arranging for music, and the school's Sports Boosters club will sell food at its concession stand.
Rachel Neu is in charge of getting teams to sign up and already has 17 registered. While many are Hereford students, Hereford teachers have formed two teams. She said there is no minimum or maximum number of people on a team, and anyone can start a team. She encourages Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, church groups, families and neighbors to create teams. There is a $10 registration fee per person.
Teams are encouraged to have a theme and wear clothing to match the theme. Committee member Howard said the girls who are Relay "officers" will all wear police caps. The Hereford girls lacrosse team will all wear their lacrosse shirts, she said.
Community members who want to cheer teams on are welcome to attend at no cost.
The Relay features teams that ensure at least one member will be walking on the quarter-mile track from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. Teams raise money before the event and many set up some kind of fundraising activity at the Relay, too.
"It's kind of like a carnival where you have people walking around the track and other people on their team are selling things or doing activities," said Greta Hasler, a Relay committee member.
To form a team, donate to a team or learn more about the Relay for Life at Hereford, go to RelayForLife.org/HerefordMD or call 410-933-5208.