IT'S TIME FOR his peers, friends and former players to give back to Dick Edell, the former "Big Man" on the University of Maryland campus.
For nearly two decades, Edell, the former Terps lacrosse coach, gave more than he received. But on Sept. 21, Edell and his daughter, Krissy, in conjunction with the University of Maryland Alumni Association, are holding a 3-mile walk-a-thon on the campus to raise money to help find a cure for inclusion body myositis, a disease that gradually destroys muscle fiber and tissue and incapacitates its victims' arms and legs.
Edell has the disease, which forced him into early retirement in 2001. There is no cure. In the early stages, those with the disease have problems getting into and out of chairs, walking up and down steps and standing for long periods. It eventually forces a person into a wheelchair and later to become bedridden.
Edell's group would like to raise about $20,000 from nearly 500 participants. The money for research or a possible cure might not come in time to help Edell, but, as he has for most of his life, he is looking out for someone else.
Yesterday, he spent more time asking me about my family than we did talking about him. He wanted to know about the Ravens and the Redskins. He wanted to know what was going on in the lacrosse world, as if he didn't already know.
And his humor was as sharp as ever.
"I figure if I get there on Saturday, I can finish by Sunday with the aid of a tailwind," said a laughing Edell, who will walk with the aid of crutches. "I don't know how much money we will raise, but to be out there with old friends and to meet some new ones is fine with me.
"This is new ground for me," Edell said of the fund-raiser. "It may not help me, but it could help someone down the road. If that's the case, then let's do it."
Krissy Edell Kelley began formulating plans for the walk-a-thon about six months ago. She soon contacted her close friend, Allyson Yospe, director of alumni and athletic events at Maryland, and then Debbie Yow, the school's athletic director.
Kelley said she was spurred to take action after watching her father's visits to doctors, who were able to give him virtually nothing for treatment. According to Kelley, only one out of every 1 million people gets the disease.
The event is called Muscling Out Myositis in Honor of Coach Dick Edell. For more information, you can go to the Web site www.alumni.umd.edu.
"He goes to the University of Maryland and Hopkins [hospitals], but they just monitor his progress," Kelley said. "They just basically test for the progression, but there is no treatment, nothing they can do to help him. They don't know why you get it, who gets it.
"They don't know how long you have had it, how fast it will progress," she said. "They don't know why it tears muscles down or how to rebuild them. They've had walk-a-thons in other states, but with little success. It's such an unknown disease."
It's a challenge, but one Edell has accepted. He has approached the disease with the same fight he had when he coached at Maryland.
Edell-coached teams were never pretty. If you wanted style or finesse, you turned to Hopkins or Princeton.
Maryland was always about intensity, defense, grit and passion, all the character traits of Edell, who became one of the sport's all-time great coaches and characters. Edell left Maryland with 13 appearances in the NCAA Division I tournament. He still had some good years remaining.
"It's been hard for me," Edell said. "I wish I was still out there doing what I was doing. But I can't. But just as some doors have closed, others have opened. Like the TV deal [as a local commentator]. If I didn't have a face for radio only, I would be a budding TV star."
He laughed. Then he became a little more serious.
"But if I was still coaching, I probably would have seen my [younger] daughter [Erin] play only one lacrosse game [at the University of Delaware], but now I'm watching more of her games," Edell said.
"I go over to [a hospital in] Bethesda twice a year, and if you keep your eyes and ears open, you learn a lot. Sure, I've got a problem, but it's not as bad as some. I do what I can do. When I wake up in the morning and can move around, I'm just glad I made it through another day."
Edell was always active. There was a time when he and former Terps football coach Joe Krivak were the fastest walkers on campus. Edell still walks and exercises as much as he can.
He goes to a lot of games. He might attend one of his daughter's games or one of his former assistant coaches'. He offers Maryland coach Dave Cottle insight about the Atlantic Coast Conference.
His phone never stops ringing, with calls from such former players as goalie Brian Dougherty or such former coaches as Bob Scott, Dave Urick and Carl Runk, who invited Edell to join his staff at Hereford High.
But there is a different call out now, one for his old buddies to rally around Edell, who left more than just a won-lost record at Maryland.
The "Big Man," as he was affectionally known at Maryland, has another challenge. The event should get a nice turnout, because Edell's extended family always included coaches, players, waterboys, the milkman, the mailman, his bowling team or just about anybody he came in contact with.
He has always been blue-collar, never forsaking his Dundalk roots for the yuppie lacrosse crowd. His home in Glenelg is still a drop-in center.
"He is just a wonderful man," Yospe said. "He is so many things to so many people - a wonderful husband and father to his family, a great friend to his friends and a great professional to this university.
"When Krissy started talking about this walk-a-thon, she didn't know where she wanted to have it. When I started to think about it, the legacy of the 'Big Man' at Maryland and my job, it was a great fit to have this at the Maryland campus. We should do anything to support him."