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Hockey family rallies around former player diagnosed with leukemia while in Marines

Ice hockey puck on ice (Santeri Viinamäki/WikiCommons)

When Wyatt Weil’s hockey buddies found out he was sick, they wanted to do what they could to help out.

And families who knew the Weils through the Valley Youth Hockey orgranization have come to the aid of the former defenseman who is battling a rare form of leukemia just as he finished boot camp to become a U.S. Marine.

Weil, 18, followed his father’s footsteps and joined the Marine Corps after graduating from LaFayette High School last year. He was a standout hockey and lacrosse player, who won state championships during his senior year with the LaFayette lacrosse team and the Syracuse Cougars.

But Weil got sick right at the end of his Marine training late last year at Parris Island, and he was hospitalized in Beaufort, S.C., his father, Aaron Weil, said.

“He knew something was wrong, but he didn’t say anything because he wanted to finish his training,” Aaron Weil said.

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Weil is diagnosed with Philadelphia positive acute lymphoblastic leukemia, a rare subtype of acute lymphoblastic leukemia.

A handful of former teammates from the Valley Youth Hockey organization, who had skated with Weil in club or high school hockey, have come together to encourage their friend and help the family while their friend undergoes treatment.

Their concerns have snowballed into larger efforts to help.

On Tuesday night, “Wyatt Strong” wristbands will be sold at Meachem Ice Rink, where Fulton and Syracuse are set to face off in hockey at 7 p.m., and proceeds from the braclet sales will be donated to help defray expenses for the Weils.

“It’s tough. He’s gone through a lot,” said Neal Purcell, who coached Weil on the Cougars.

The same thing will happen Thursday night at the Twin Rinks in Cicero, where Fayetteville-Manlius will play host to Syracuse at 7. F-M has also agreed to donate the gate receipts as well.

“Hockey isn’t like any other sport. You become kind of like family. He’s like my brother,” said Jason Tedeschi, an F-M senior who along with some other former Valley players had the wristbands made.

Tedeschi and F-M graduate Brandon Heyman, Westhill graduate Andrew Corning, Westhill senior Ryan Durand and Marcellus senior Kiernan Proud, all were teammates on Valley hockey teams. Corning, Durand and Proud were members of the 2018-19 Syracuse Cougars team that won a state Division I championship.

The wristband effort evolved into the special game-night fund-raisers. And parents are now organizing a March 21 fund-raiser for the family tentatively set to be held at Swallows.

A new local company, Syr Clothing Inc., is producing special T-shirts to support Wyatt. The company was formed by Matt and Taylor Sourwine, and Taylor is a cousin of Ryan Durand.

Syr Clothing, which partners with a number of local charities, is also donating a portion of all of its sales this month to Clearpath for Veterans as well as aiding the effort for the Weils.

“It’s like a whole team of people are coming together,” said Shannon Proud, Kiernan’s mother and one of the parents helping to organize things. “The point is to show Wyatt and everyone around him that we’re here.”

Shannon Proud said that while parents are involved, the whole idea of helping the Weils came through Wyatt’s former teammates.

Aaron Weil said his son is undergoing treatment, which so far has included a number of blood transfusions and chemotherapy.

“He’s positive. He’s in a good spot,” Aaron Weil said. “He’s in the beginning stages of the road to recovery.”

Wyatt, who friends describe as a free spirit, isn’t taking well to being cooped up in a hospital, his father said.

“He’s frustrated. He’s got cabin fever. He’s trying to do push-ups,” which got him into trouble with his doctor, Aaron Weil said. And he’s been riding as much as 10 miles at a time on a stationary bicycle at the hospital that he is permitted to use.

“He just wants to get better,” Aaron Weil said. “He wants to get back to the infantry and fight for his country.”

Aaron Weil said the family – he and his wife, Kym, have three other children between the ages of 11 and 16 – is hoping to bring Wyatt home later this week.

The plan is for Wyatt to continue his treatments at Strong Memorial Hospital in Rochester.

Aaron Weil said he and his family are “overwhelmed” by the support Wyatt has received.

“The people in this community … it’s unbelievable,” he said.

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