Losing two friends in an accident triggered something in Andrew Kempen.
A senior kicker for the Westminster Wildcats, he decided to honor his late compadres by partnering with the nonprofit Alex’s Lemonade Stand and launching a Kick-It For Cancer effort.
Two summers ago, Kempen attended a Kohls football kicking camp in Wisconsin. There, he met Nebraska punter Sam Foltz and Michigan State punter Mike Sadler.
“They were mentors to me, teaching me how to achieve my goals both on and off the field,” Kempen said. Tragically, both Sam and Mike were killed in a car accident. “Colby Delahoussaye [a kicker for LSU] was also in the car with them, and he survived the crash.
“I decided to take action and learn from Sam’s and Mike’s unique effort to help those in their communities.”
His first thought was to sell wristbands. “We then decided to take some of these kids with cancer or disabilities [onto the football field]. They rode bikes … during halftime [last fall] with the cheerleaders and fans all cheering them on,” Kempen said.
It was a moment he will never forget.
“When I first saw these kids on the field … I knew that this is what Sam and Mike did, putting the benefits of others before themselves,” Kempen said. “Ever since [their] passing I have worn their names on my wrist and will continue to through my college football career to remind myself how special these men were in their communities and the actions they took in making a difference.”
He said his Kick-It For Cancer effort has “truly reshaped the way I think and act in my life … I like how these causes unify and bring people together.”
He is hoping his action will inspire other kickers.
“I have talked with many top college kickers across the nation hoping to lead these foundations and grow them as best we can,” he said. “I pray for our community, no matter how much brokenness is happening around us, to help rise above our differences and make a real difference and inspire others as leaders.”
Kempen already has inspired the Westminster student body, who came together recently to support Kick-It For Cancer with a Basketball Fights Cancer Night against the Principia Panthers, sponsored by Chick-Fil-A.
Students donated $5 for a yellow dress down day. At the girls’ and boys’ games, they painted the stands yellow.
It was a success. Both the girls’ and boys’ team won their games.
“It’s a great opportunity for us to come together as a community to help with a great cause,” said boys coach Dale Ribble. “It was fun to see a great crowd with all of the yellow in the stands. I think our students at Westminster have hearts to serve.”
Girls coach Shannon Lawrence said her Wildcats were glad to be a part of the night.
“Cancer affects us all – directly or indirectly. When we come together and support one another at events like this it allows us the opportunity to bless and hopefully encourage those who are fighting and pushing through battles that we may never know about,” Lawrence said. “We are grateful for Chick-Fil-A and their generous support.”
She credited Kempen for taking on the lead role.
“Andrew is a servant leader who walks the walk he talks,” Lawrence said. “He is passionate about helping others and is willing to put in the hard work to make it happen.”
The dress down day and raffles raised more than $2,500 for Kempen’s campaign. Senior Thomas Shultz, of the Westminster Blue Crew, helped lead the school-wide effort.
“Westminster’s student body and Blue Crew, which is our student fans, has been a great amount of help supporting these causes,” Kempen said. “It was very special seeing the basketball raffle and dress down day happen … yellow in support of children’s cancer.
“Over the past three years, we have raised over $12,000 for Kick-It For Cancer, which is partnered with Alex’s Lemonade Stand,” Kempen said. “This is a charity site toward cancer research. We’ve also raised over $3,000 toward Variety Children’s Charity in St. Louis.”
For more than 80 years, Variety has helped children with physical and developmental disabilities reach their full potentials.
Fulfilling his potential, Kemper hopes to play football in college. He had a solid career with the Wildcats. His accuracy was 97 percent from 200 kicks, counting extra point attempts. His longest field goal in a game was 51 yards during his junior season.
“I am undecided for college, but I am training to play college football,” Kempen said. “I enjoyed playing football at Westminster. I have many great memories and stories with my teammates that I will cherish.”