Wilmot grad is battling bone cancer
By Jason Arndt
The Wilmot Union High School football program, as well as the community at-large, joined together to support a former student-athlete stricken with Ewing sarcoma before a Sept. 16 contest against visiting Waterford.
Kaleb Gendron, the youngest of three children to John and Kristen, graduated from Wilmot in 2021 before attending Loras College in Dubuque, Iowa to study engineering and play baseball.
However, in May, after Kaleb experienced lingering leg issues, athletic trainers discovered significant swelling in his left thigh.
John Gendron, meanwhile, recalled a conversation he had with officials from Loras College in May.
The officials, he said, suggested they pay a visit to Kaleb.
“They already knew there was something, but they obviously didn’t tell us – but they had told us that they through it was bone cancer,” John said. “They took us to UW-Madison and they did a bunch of tests there and diagnosed it.”
Kaleb underwent weeks of chemotherapy before having surgery to remove his entire left femur, which included total knee and hip replacement, according to John.
“Unfortunately, they were hoping to do a partial femur replacement, but they had to take the whole bone,” John said. “His baseball career, his doctor said, is over just because of the added pressure.”
Kaleb, recovering from surgery at home, remained in high spirits despite receiving unfortunate news about his baseball playing career.
“He is obviously disappointed, but he understand that there is a bigger battle at play,” John said. “His spirits are good, he is fighting. He is a tough kid, so if anybody’s going to do it, he has kept a positive spirit through it all.”
In the meantime, Kaleb continues to take online courses in engineering while exploring a new sport to play – golf.
‘Be Bold, Go Gold’
Meanwhile, on Sept. 16, the Western Kenosha County community, and even students from Waterford showed up to support Kaleb, with the Waterford student section decked out in white and gold to recognize “Be Bold, Go Gold” night.
The Gendrons have received tremendous support not only from the Wilmot community, but from officials at Westosha Central, where John serves as District Administrator, as well as Riverview and Randall schools.
John previously served similar roles at Randall and Riverview, where his wife, Kristen, works as a teacher.
“It means a ton,” he said. “Wilmot has been a big part of our life, I know I am over at Westosha Central, but my kids graduated here.”
In addition to community support, Kaleb continues to receive continuous encouragement from his older brothers, Kyle and Jared.
According to John, Kyle and Jared stay in frequent contact with Kaleb, visiting home whenever possible.
“His two brothers come home every chance they can, they FaceTime, or talk to him everyday, so they have been the glue to him and positive to him,” John said. “They have been lifting his spirits up and they have risen to the occasion.”
Bigger than football, Wilmot
Wilmot Athletic Director Herm Christiansen, who addressed the crowd before the Sept. 16 contest, said he and the Panther football coaches, and the Quarterback Club decided to create “Be Bold, Go Gold” night after the community lost one of their own last spring.
“While we realize that this battle against cancer is way bigger than us, we want to do whatever we can to help the families dealing the ‘C’ word,” Christiansen said. “One of the young men going through this battle right now is Kaleb Gendron, a former football player.”
“Kaleb and his brothers all graduated from Wilmot and were all great scholar-athletes.”
Additionally, according to Christiansen, many people attending the contest may have his mother, Kristen, as a teacher at Riverview, or John, as a coach or an administrator at Randall or Riveview.
“And even though John now wears that ugly maroon color for that silly school down Highway 50, we know that he still bleeds Wilmot red and we are here to help Kaleb and his family fight this battle,” Christiansen said.
The night included several fundraisers, including a Miracle Minute during the contest, as well as matching contributions from other nonprofit groups.
Editor’s note: In the Sept. 23 print edition of The Report, the date was incorrectly stated as Sept. 19.
The online version has been changed to reflect the correct date of Sept. 16.