Hunter Krusmark is a Warrior
WINONA – Being labeled is not what Hunter Krusmark wanted. The 14-year-old Lake City boy has been through enough in life, and being the “cancer kid” is something he'd rather not be.
Instead of associating his name with Hodgkin's lymphoma, which he was diagnosed with in 2014, Hunter now has a nickname, one that is associated with thousands of others, but one that is uniquely apt for him: warrior.
“He didn’t want anybody to feel sorry for him,” said Hunter's father, Jerry. “He just wants to be normal. That’s what has been going on with him. He tries to be as normal as possible.”
On Thursday, Hunter and his mother and father arrived at Winona State University for Hunter to sign a National Letter of Intent with the Warriors and coach Kyle Poock. Hunter, who recently was given a cancer-free diagnosis after his three-year checkup, addressed media and teammates, and was given a jersey prior to heading out to practice with the rest of the Warriors.
“When I first came here, I figured I'd just be here,” Hunter said. “But once I got to know the guys, it really started to get fun, almost personal.”
The association was arranged through Team Impact, an organization that partners children with life-threatening or chronic illnesses with collegiate sports teams.
Hunter visited the school twice before, and said that the team was more welcoming each time. Hunter's interest in hunting and fishing fit in with most of the locker room, including Poock, who said he hopes to get Hunter on a boat in his hometown to fish Lake Pepin.
Before any of that happens, Hunter will join the team on a trip to Minneapolis in March to play at U.S. Bank Stadium. That will be just another day where Hunter will be part of something special.
“Wins and losses are great, but I'm not worried about that stuff anymore,” Poock said. “We're just trying to get the best team, be competitive, play good competition. But when you can reach out and help somebody, to teach my guys how they can impact other people's lives, that's important.”
After Hunter signed his NLI, questions from fellow Warriors followed, the media grabbed some quotes and cameras snapped and recorded the moment.
“The group today, I've never seen anything like that,” said Kendra Krusmark, Hunter's mother.
Hunter had cancer, and he's fought more in his 14 years than he should have had to. Illness has taken much of his youth, and most of his athletic career. But he's not the “cancer kid.” He is indeed a warrior, and, now, a Warrior.
“I'm very proud. I couldn't imagine all that he's been through, to be as brave and as strong and to keep going and going after being diagnosed with systemic juvenile rheumatoid arthritis when he was four, and then cancer when he was 11. He keeps going and keeps fighting,” Kendra said. “Most people wouldn't be able to keep going the way he does. His strength shocks us daily.”