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Muskego team tries to score for cancer-stricken counselor

Basketball players focus this year's fundraising on Kralj

Sophmores Meredith DeBack (left) and Raven Borek place orders for T-shirts being sold by the Muskego High School's National Honor Society and Boys Basketball team in support of Jane Kralj, a school counselor who is being treated for cancer. Students are to wear the t-shirts at Feb. 7 basketball games dedicated to Kralj.

Sophmores Meredith DeBack (left) and Raven Borek place orders for T-shirts being sold by the Muskego High School's National Honor Society and Boys Basketball team in support of Jane Kralj, a school counselor who is being treated for cancer. Students are to wear the t-shirts at Feb. 7 basketball games dedicated to Kralj. Photo By C.T. Kruger

Jan. 20, 2014

Muskego — For five years, Muskego High School basketball players have raised money to fight cancer, but this year the dread disease is reaching out for one of Muskego's own.

Beloved student services (guidance) counselor Jane Kralj is out for the year being treated for cancer.

"That stinks," said junior Joseph Neuberger, a shooting guard who's playing his first year of varsity basketball.

That has put the fight on a higher level, the young players say.

"Everyone knows Ms. Kralj and wants to support her," said four-year varsity shooting guard Jack Mlachnik. "We're all fighting for her."

Medical bill aid

Instead of raising money for the American Cancer Society, the players will help raise money that will go to help Kralj with medical bills.

"I heard there was an opportunity to raise a bunch of money, and that's awesome to do for someone," Neuberger said.

Teammate Mitchel Pope, a senior and a forward who has played varsity for four years, agreed that the financial element Kralj has to endure, in addition to the cancer itself, is an important motivator for the students' fundraising efforts.

"The treatments she is going through are a big burden to deal with," Pope said.

Fundraising efforts

The boys agreed the cancer fundraiser is a lot more personal this year, and their fundraising has taken on several forms.

All last week, the basketball players teamed with the school National Honor Society to sell T-shirts that appropriately and lyrically say, "We ball for Kralj" and "Fight Like a Warrior," the latter a reference to the school's team nickname. The back of the shirts read: "Courage is the First Quality of a Warrior."

The students also held a free-throw contest with the Muskego Youth Basketball Association in which students got pledges for each throw.

Helping a helper

To some extent, the students' involvement is positive payback for Kralj's efforts to help students in their school lives.

"She helped me multiple times over the years," Mlachnik said. "She's so kind, the way she talks, everything about her, she's a nice person."

Neuberger remembered how Kralj pulled him out of a quandary as he tried to develop his resumé.

"She's very caring, putting our needs ahead of hers," Neuberger said.

Pope agreed, saying students never had to wait to see her. She dropped whatever she was doing to make sure students got what they needed right away, he said.

"Whenever I needed help I could walk in," Pope said, and Kralj would help him look up information about colleges and careers.

While helping Kralj, the young basketball players are learning a life lesson before they even leave high school, said basketball coach Andy Capes, a social studies teacher at Muskego High.

"This shows students the struggles people go through and that they can face in their own lives," Capes said, adding that seeing someone they like actually fighting cancer helps teach empathy.

Staff appreciation, too

Colleagues also recognize Kralj's contributions.

"She helped a lot of kids go to college and enjoy success after high school," Capes said.

"She goes above and beyond," said Christine Wiesbrock, a counselor who has worked with Kralj for 17 years and described her as "a great spirit and a great heart."

"We miss her terribly," Wiesbrock said.

Linda LeMaster, a history teacher and co-adviser of the National Honor Society, noted how Kralj herself would do the same.

"If this were happening to someone else, she would be the first to help," LeMaster said. "She's a loving, caring person."

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