Community comes together for football head coach

John B. Crane
Devils Lake Journal

LEEDS – Notepads, pencils and a collection of more than half a dozen individuals set the scene inside a tightly packed conference room at Leeds High School. The occasion was anything but routine, but even still, a brainstorming session was a brainstorming session for the committee at hand. 

The topic was also not one many expected to discuss, but its significance was at such a level that it needed to be: Bradley Kitzmann was diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer. 

To give the former Benson County football head coach the support he and his family needed, a collection of staff members and friends decided to come together and pitch out fundraiser ideas. 

“A lot of us just love him to death, and we all immediately were like, how can we help, what can we do,” Jeana Brossart, a friend of Kitzmann for eight years, said. “We obviously know treatments, the cancer, the traveling, all of the expenses and then just the moral support families need. We started talking about ideas right away. What is Brad, what does he like, what matters to him, what does he care about? So, we tried to think of ideas that fit him and went along with him, like sports and the kids and stuff like that. We shot around a lot of ideas at first.”

A basketball tournament, dodgeball game and everything that even somewhat scratched the sports-centric surface were brought up as possibilities. Other ideas revolving around Kitzmann’s military and EMT history were also visited. 

At first, it was tough to come up with a concrete idea. 

One quick glance at the calendar, however, quickly illustrated that Halloween was swiftly approaching. 

Bingo. 

And so, the “Bradley Kitzmann Benefit” found its legs. The event, slated to take place on Oct. 30 at Leeds High School, will include a “Monster Dash-Cancer Smash!” costume-themed run through town that will take place at 3:00 p.m. CT on Oct. 30. The run, coupled with a free-will spaghetti supper and silent auction taking place from 4:00-7:30 and 4:00-7:00, respectively, gave the committee members a firm foundation on what the goal was. 

Now, it was all about logistics. A small list of stuff to get and things to do quickly grew to two pages. Who would get the pasta? What about tables? Advertising? So much needed to get done, and who would make sure it all ran as smoothly as possible? 

Enter Bobbie McGarvey. 

McGarvey has come to know the Kitzmann family through her daughter’s interaction with his son. So when Kitzmann’s diagnosis came to be, McGarvey quickly went to work toward coordinating an event in his honor. 

With the event more than 80% organized, it now comes down to the weather for an event that should draw anywhere from 250-300 people. To McGarvey, it is about expressing support to a community member many have come to love. 

“I think the whole community has had their own family health issues, and we have all been there,” McGarvey said. “Sometimes people feel alone, or maybe they have felt the love of the community, so they want to spread it more.” 

Bridget Geller, the head coach for the Benson County volleyball team, has also come to know Kitzmann personally. 

The same could be said for her team. 

Once the news broke, several volleyball players went above and beyond to show their support. 

“Coming together helped a lot as our motto for this whole thing is ‘stronger together,’” senior middle hitter Desidy Schwanke said. “Bridget was with us when we found out, and we told her right away we wanted to do something as a team as he was going to be there.” 

Bridget Geller (far left) poses with several volleyball players holding the Bradley Kitzmann shirts.

Support did not end with both the Wildcats and the opposing teams meeting in the middle of the court for a quick prayer before matches got underway. Instead, the team went out of their way to additionally design a teal-colored shirt that would be a physical representation of the team’s support for their fellow community member. With more than 300 on order, the shirts will be part of the fundraiser before and during the event. 

“I think it is part of every kind of scenario we do at our school,” Schwanke said. “It is a representative way of supporting. It is a big fundraiser as well, so we threw out ideas, trying to make it meaningful. We are using them as warmups now, just as motivation for our team and for him.” 

The players, in addition to Geller, both believe that family is essential. To the team, showing support for Kitzmann helps emphasize the family bond the community has toward his family. 

“We feel even closer, even with the communities around us,” Geller said. “Maddock and Leeds, we have been co-op for however many years, but this brings us closer. We feel more like a family, and I have gotten to know more people in Leeds. My dad grew up here, and I know a lot of people here. But I have gotten to know a lot more over the past month or so. Sports are not everything, and that is what it is showing right now. Everything is bigger.” 

The upcoming event has not only been the talk among local circles within the state of North Dakota. Individuals from South Dakota have also reached out to express their support for Kitzmann.  

From the committee members to the community in its entirety, a benefit in support of a coach, mentor, veteran, family member and everything in-between is the least that could be done. Even if the weather plays a factor, the event will still bring many together.

“We are not even going to think about that,” McGarvey said. “We are just going to be positive, and it is going to be beautiful.”

“I am excited,” Geller said. “I have helped out on a few different fundraisers for other people too, and other organizations in Maddock. It just makes you feel good. You are doing something good and seeing the smile on the family’s face. It is something different.”