Founded 1901

Royal Purple

Founded 1901

Royal Purple

Founded 1901

Royal Purple

Keeping the Slakstrong memory alive

Life can be so fragile.

Most often, though, you don’t realize it until something fatal happens to you or a loved one.

All you can do is live your life to the fullest and enjoy what’s right in front of you.

Tyler Slak was doing that.

He was going to college. He was enjoying success as a member of the UW-Whitewater men’s swimming and diving team.

He even broke the school record in the 100-yard butterfly his senior year. He had many friends. He had a great family and support system.

And he had dreams like the rest of us.

But it was all taken away from him last year.

Cancer took that from him.

It took him away from his family, his friends and all the people who cared about him.

It also suddenly took him away from his goals and aspirations.

However, the memory of Slak cannot be taken away.

And his goals and aspirations can still come true.

That’s why the UW-Whitewater athletic department and his family want to keep his memory alive by creating the Tyler Slak Memorial Scoreboard in the Williams Center’s swimming pool.

In a joint statement from Athletic Director Paul Plinske, head swimming and diving coach Joel Rollings and Eileen Slak, Tyler’s mother, they said the former Warhawk always talked about having a state-of-the-art Daktronics scoreboard at UW-Whitewater.

So that’s what Plinske, the athletic department and the Slak family will try to make happen.

They’ve set up a fund and are collecting donations so the dream of a person who was taken from this Earth too early can live on.

Donations can be made to the UW-Whitewater Foundation, Inc. (Tyler Slak Memorial Scoreboard Fund) and can be mailed to 800 W. Main St.; Whitewater, WI 53190.

Will the community respond for one of its own?

If I’ve learned anything about the UW-Whitewater students, the Whitewater community and the athletic department in my four years of attending this university, it’s that when tragedy strikes, they stick together.

This was on display last year when more than $4,500 was raised in one night to help former UW-Whitewater football player AJ Raebel offset hospital bills and other expenses while the then 24-year-old was battling testicular cancer.

Past teammates showed up, old coaches and friends showed up, and people who didn’t even know him showed up.

This was all to help someone who was fighting the destructive force that is cancer.

The same can be said about what the community is currently doing for the Kilar family, who lost their son, Treyton, when the car he was riding in was struck by an alleged drunk driver in September.

To keep his memory alive, the UW-Whitewater athletic department, some UW-Whitewater faculty members and the Kilar family, of Whitewater, are trying to win a grant through the Pepsi Refresh Project worth $250,000 to build the “Treyton Kilar Field of Dreams” baseball complex in Starin Park, just east of campus.

The top two ideas in the $250,000 category get the funding. As of Tuesday, it was No. 2, which would help make this dream become a reality.

Based on those results, it appears the Whitewater family did its part in the cause and it was there for Raebel as well – although no one truly knows what he experienced inside or what the Kilar family is experiencing emotionally.

The same can be said about the Slak family.

Yesterday marked the one-year anniversary of Slak’s final race at the Fort Atkinson High School swimming pool. Before Slak died, he had a few goals he wanted to achieve.

One was to swim one more “meet” in the place he felt more at home than any other place.

It was an emotional scene as friends and family cheered him on and watched a young man fight with every ounce he had left.

These same people were there again two days later when he received his college diploma at a special graduation ceremony inside the University Center’s Summers Auditorium.

Slak died shortly after but used the term “Slakstrong” to help him achieve his final goals.

Despite not being able to live out all his dreams, Slak lived his life to the fullest until his final breath.

Let’s now use our lives to help preserve his memory and keep one of his dreams alive.

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Founded 1901
Keeping the Slakstrong memory alive