The Rehkow family packed their bags and took a trip to Salt Lake City with a specific kind of experience in mind. They were on their way to listen, in person, to inspired talks given by LDS General Authorities at the Conference Center on Temple Square.
“Me and my family headed down to catch Saturday’s session of General Conference,” said Rehkow. “It was a great time listening being there in person listening to the talks of the Quorum of the Twelve and General Authorities inside the Conference Center. That place is amazing and it’s great to be in their presence hearing their inspiring words.”
As a kicker out of Central Valley High School, Ryan Rehkow had hopes of visiting BYU, so the Rehkow family was going to take full advantage of their trip to the state of Utah.
“So, we came down during spring break for General Conference,” said Rehkow. “We were able to get an unofficial visit set up at BYU,” said Rehkow. “They showed me around the campus. Then after that they offered me. It was pretty awesome!”
Receiving a scholarship offer from BYU over General Conference weekend was the cherry on top of what had been an already wonderful family experience.
“It’s an honor to receive an offer from BYU,” said Rehkow. “The campus is such a great play and I’ve never been there before,” he said. “It was amazing! The coaching staff is such a great and they make you feel wanted. It’s just one big happy family down there. They’re just such a fun group of guys. It was just an amazing experience and the whole family was so excited that I got that offer. I can’t say enough about it.”
Both a punter and a kicker, Rehkow considers himself more of a punter. However, his field goal kicking game range isn’t too shabby either.
“I’m a punter and a kicker but more as a punter. [The coaches] really like my frame. I’m 6-4, 205, and the sky’s the limit really. They liked my flexibility and stuff like that.
“This year I hit a 57 yard field goal and most of my kick offs were in the end zone. I’m game for those long range field goals. It’s a lot of fun trying to help your team out.”
On the way home it was a joyous occasion for the family. The family took in their weekend experience and talked about all the exciting things that had occurred. It was a joyous moment for all.
“I was offered by BYU that Monday after General Conference and the family was really excited,” Rehkow said. “We were really happy about everything that happened.”
However, Ryan’s 10 year old brother, Cameron, wasn’t feeling well and hadn’t been his happy-go-lucky self for some time.
“My mother literally made the doctor’s appointment as we were traveling back home,” Rehkow said. “That Wednesday, two days later, my dad told me.”
Just two day after receiving a scholarship from BYU, and having a wonderful weekend with the family experiencing General Conference, Ryan Rehkow’s father gave him the news.
“I don’t kick for myself anymore. Before it was about kicking for the love of the sport and to see how far I could go with it. Now I kick to inspire hope in my little brother. I kick to accomplish things my little brother now might not be able to do. I kick to make him smile. I kick with greater purpose and that’s to make my little brother happy. It’s not about me anymore, it’s about my 10 year old little brother Cameron who has now been diagnosed with leukemia.”
At a time when he and his family should be celebrating, a dark cloud of uncertainty blanketed the Rehkow family. With little Cameron’s diagnosis of leukemia, their world has literally been turned upside down.
“It’s not about me anymore, it’s about him. He can’t go out and do anything because his immune system is shot, so everything I do is about him. I have to go out and try to bring some sense of joy and happiness to his heart since all he hears every single day is something negative and horrible.
“Cameron has always looks up to me and my older brother Austin who plays for the University of Idaho. He’s always looked up to Austin because he’s been successful up there and has done some great things punting and kicking the ball. Now I have to do the same thing to bring him happiness.”
Keeping the pain hidden in his heart, so as not to burden others, Rehkow has quietly soldiered on. In fact, the coaches of BYU don’t even know the personal struggles one of their recruits, and his family, are suffering through the most trying times of their lives.
“I didn’t tell anyone about it,” Rehkow said. “I haven’t even told the BYU coaches, so nobody really knows about what’s happened and what we’re going through. I just kind of kept it to myself but it’s slowing getting out there though.”
Moments filled with disheartening trials brings families closer together. For members of the LDS church, leaning upon the priesthood and the belief in miracles binds them in faith, while holding fast to the eternal principle that families are indeed eternal. It’s that soft glow of understanding that helps soften the blows of life’s challenges.
“We could tell something was wrong with him for a few months now,” Rehkow recalled. “He wasn’t acting the same. When Cameron was taken to the hospital and diagnosed, the leukemia wasn’t in his spinal fluid, which was good because that meant it wasn’t in his brain. I don’t know much about it. I try to avoid knowing because it’s so hard for me.”
Such devastation to a loved one causes so much pain that avoiding the details of the matter is taken to avoid inflicting more emotional pain. It’s often a safeguard mechanism that keeps one from breaking down even further during a trying time. Having to watching your loved one go through the pains of treatment not knowing the outcome is difficult enough as it is.
“It’s really hard to explain,” said a somber Rehkow. “You don’t want to see your little 10 year old little brother, who was just running around one day, and is now confined to a hospital going through treatment, go through all this. It’s hard to see my parents and it’s so hard for me. It’s really hit our family hard and it’s hard to handle at times. It’s just all so hard to take in.”
Horrible life experiences have a way of separating the trivial from what is most important in life. Rehkow is now thinking he may commit to BYU, and that may come after he takes in a few kicking camps this summer, for a few personal reasons.
“I’m thinking about committing to BYU because that’s the place where I feel I need to be,” said a somber Ryan Rehkow. “BYU is such an awesome university surrounded by great people, and it’s my church college staffed with great coaches. It has an environment that I would like to surround myself in. I mean, BYU is such a great fit for me, and I’m just thinking I’ll make a decision sooner rather than later. I just want to hit a few camps first and then make my decision. I just don’t think there’s any other place out there that fits who I am better than BYU.”
When big brother Austin Rehkow signed his National Letter of Intent to play football for the University of Idaho, little Cameron soon became the biggest Vandal fan, cheering on his older brother.
“He wasn’t much of a Vandal fan until my brother [Austin] went there,” said Ryan Rehkow. “Now he’s the biggest one I know!”
Being only 10 years old, Cameron is still learning about college sports in general. However, it’s reasonable to say that if his other big brother Ryan Rehkow chooses to be a Cougar, BYU would have one of the biggest fans in little Cameron.
“Yea, I’m sure he would be!” said Rehkow.
Regardless, BYU fans around the world will be cheering on little Cameron Rehkow as he battles through what has become one of the most trying times of his young life.