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Cutting out cancer: Ryan Koenig's story

Ryan Koenig grows out his locks and raises money for cancer patients, honouring his late mother.

LUSELAND – Ryan Koenig is no stranger to sporting longer locks, which he will be donating in memory of his late mother, Janet Katherine Koenig nee Weinkauf. Although he recently cut 11 inches off, he is also wanting to raise funds for cancer research over the year.

Koenig’s mother fought cancer before his birth in 2000. She was in remission when she and husband Michael decided to start their family. While expecting Ryan, a rare cancer was found. She was given a short timeline of survival but was able to be a part of her newborn son’s life for two years.

“I was actually born as an emergency Cesarean section because my mom needed chemotherapy as soon as possible,” said Koenig.

Janet died Nov. 14, 2002, leaving behind a two-year-old toddler and a husband.

“Dad was in shock. Although they had talked about her wishes if she passed, he struggled with what to do and how to feel. He didn’t know what to do with me, as he sees a lot of her in me,” he said.

Koenig first grew his hair out at the age of 12. He had heard how expensive wigs were for cancer patients and knowing how much his parents spent on a wig for his mom, he wanted to help. Most wig manufacturers were accepting a minimum length of eight inches, so Koenig grew his hair to the required length for the first time. The next time he donated his hair, he reached a length of 12 inches and this last round of cutting he reached 11 inches.

“A week after I cut my hair, the organization that I donate my hair to changed the length requirements from a minimum of eight inches to 12 inches. I am hoping they will still accept the 11 inches, but I am also looking for another organization that I can work with,” adds Koenig.

Even though Koenig is spearheading the fundraising campaign, he is getting help. As a goalie with the Luseland Mallards senior hockey team, many teammates have helped him with raising awareness and adding to the fundraising pot. In January, the Mallards administration and executives helped Koenig organize a Hockey Fights Cancer night during a home game.

“It was great. Even the visiting team, which was Dodsland, wore the purple tape. Either at warm-ups or during the game, every player had the purple tape. Even some guys who pre-wrapped their sticks tore off what they had and retaped for just that game,” said Koenig.

He has been putting up posters around the communities, hoping to reach his goal of $10,000.

“When I was 12, I was able to raise $2,500 by going door to door and again when I was 15, raised $5,000 in the same way. I figured I could easily double that again, especially with the help of the internet and friends who have put up my posters over Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta,” he added.

Koenig likes to remember his mom in many ways. He wears the number 33 on his hockey jersey, as that was the age she lived to and he grows his hair out every two years, representing how old he was when she died.

Even with his hair cut short, Koenig is not slowing down on collecting donations.

“I want to still do something else, I’m just not sure what yet. I have some ideas for over the summer and am always willing to work with someone or get help with organizing something,” Koenig said.

Donations to help Koenig reach his goal are being accepted online at Click the donate now button and search for Ryan’s Cancer Cut.