McHENRY, Ill. -- Like George Bailey in “It’s A Wonderful Life,” Rick Carone found out how he has touched his community. They showed as much by coming out to support Carone’s battle with pancreatic cancer Saturday night.
The town of Cary, where Carone grew up excelling at baseball, football, hunting, fishing and everything else, is serving as his guardian angel. Its event was called Cary For Carone, and it seemed the entire town showed up, choking up Carone with its physical and psychological embraces.
“Up and down, crying … emotions … all day today,” he said. “It’s just an overwhelming amount of support … It tears at my heartstrings. I’m seeing friends and family and coworkers I haven’t seen in 20 years.”
Click the image to see photos from the event
Carone, 42, graciously accepted the hugs, tears and well-wishes of the 500 or so people who attended the $100 a ticket Rick and Pig Roast at Bob Wegener’s sprawling farm. Live and silent auctions were held with all of the proceeds going into a family trust.
“This money will make sure he gets the best treatment and help pay for his two daughters’ college,” said speaker Maurice Loeffel, a physician who balanced sad facts with humor. “The next time I see someone crying, it should be for how much money you just spent.”
Upon finding out their Mr. Everything had stage IV pancreatic cancer just months ago, family and close friends quickly formed Team Carone, and they moved like the fictional townfolk of Bedford Falls to pay back their hero, who is now becoming known to younger generations through baseball clinics he conducts.
“Rick played with so much passion, and he lives that with his hunting and his work,” said Don Sutherland, his high school teacher and coach in baseball and football. “And the community is giving all that back. Everybody’s hoping to help him because of how he’s treated everyone he’s ever met.”
Working to #ShutDownCancer was a massive effort and was supported by people from every aspect of Carone’s life, including Outdoor Channel, Bone Collector, Buck Commanders, Realtree and Wildgame Innovations among others. Carone works as a cameraman for Buck Commander and in retail for Hard Core Decoys. He has numerous friends in the field.
The likes of Willie Robertson, Michael Waddell, Bill Jordan, Lee and Tiffany Lakosky and Justin Martin have helped his cause. The Busbices of “Wildgame Nation” went the extra mile with a special visit to the event.
“They flew in on a private jet, surprised me,” Carone said. “They only had a couple hours. Wheels down, spent two hours with me. They had to get back for a hunt with clients.”
Bill Busbice (left) and Matt Busbice (right) flew in to surprise Rick Carone.
(Courtesy Team Carone)
Carone was a catcher at Ole Miss and roomed with Major Leaguer David Delluci, his contact to meet some outdoor icons and break into the business. Carone was drafted by the Chicago White Sox and played four years in their organization.
Hunting was his other passion. Older brother Vince said the family got involved early because of their father, Frank.
“Rick’s been hunting since he was 7 years old – hunting, trapping and fishing,” Vince said. “We had to eat everything we killed. Dad made it mandatory. We were eating squirrel, groundhogs, birds, doves, you name it.”
A story goes that Rick had to prove himself before getting to hunt – his father required him to field dress a roadkill deer. But Rick passed that test, and continued to excel. He was the big man of campus, the Homecoming King, the All-Star, the best friend, mentor and always somebody who was looked up to.
“What my brother has is charisma, presence, like no other,” Vince said. “When my brother’s in a room, everybody knows he’s there.
“All these people wanted to do something special for my brother. It’s just a blessing from God.”
Cancer was not. Carone’s mother died of the same disease, and Loeffel explained why 25 percent die within a year and 95 percent die within 5 years.
“There is not a screening test for pancreatic cancer. It’s so lethal because most people don’t develop symptoms until it’s in its most advanced stages,” he said. “I’m sharing these terrifying numbers for one reason -- Rick is in the fight of his life.
“I know if anybody is going to beat this thing, it’s going to be Rick.”
Cue standing ovation. Carone is knocked off his feet for several days after each chemo treatment. Younger brother Tim and his wife Kim have taken him into the home where the Carones grew up, greatly aiding his battle.
“I have chemo on Monday, so this is my strong time right now,” Carone said Saturday night.
He also has another scan this week to determine the status of the cancer. His first scan brought good news.
“No movement or shrinkage of tumor,” he said, “however, there’s no new growth, so it’s a positive.”Positive -- that’s his outlook despite tough odds. Everyone noted there’s no giving up in Carone, and he’s fighting for more chapters because how Carone has lived, it’s been a wonderful life.
For more information or to help out, visit the Team Carone Facebook page.