HURON - A benefit recently for Drew and Susan Gundlach got a surprise visitor — Kevin Shaffer, starting right tackle for the Browns.
Drew has throat cancer and Susan is now staying at a long-term care facility after breaking both of her legs in an accident. A community effort between the Browns Backers, chapter 421, and many local businesses, the benefit raised almost $10,000 to help the couple.
Shaffer happened to be staying at Kalahari and, because he knows one of the local Browns Backers, heard about the benefit.
“Kevin Shaffer got wind of the benefit and called to see if he could come. Of course we said yes,” said Guy Seibel, one of the Browns Backers and a teacher at St. Paul High School. “So he showed up unannounced and surprised the 200 or so people that were at the hall.”
One reason Shaffer wanted at attend was that he had met Drew and Susan Gundlach last year on Mother’s Day. The Gundlachs’ daughter, Angela, is a waitress at Kalahari so they went there for lunch. One of the managers at Kalahari knows Gundlach is a Browns fan so he sat the Huron couple next to Shaffer and his wife.
Since Gundlach was the offensive and defensive line coach for Huron’s freshman team for 17 years, the men immediately started talking football. When Shaffer found out their waitress was Gundlach’s daughter, the Brown’s player decided to play a trick on her.
The 6-foot-5, 325-pound Shaffer walked over to Gundlach’s daughter and said, “Those people sitting next to us are a little weird.”
Gundlach said his daughter’s reaction was priceless. “Imagine this little 100-pound girl telling this 300-pound guy — ‘Hey, those are my parents’,” he said with a laugh.
Shaffer signed autographs and posed for pictures with anyone who asked.
Shaffer also helped with the fundraising when a man approached with a football and asked Shaffer if he would autograph it. He did and it was raffled it off with all money going to the family.
By the end of the evening more than 300 people had shown up to give their support, including the entire Huron football team. Gundlach was a standout in both football and wrestling in his years at Huron High and also coached for both sports.
Tony Legando, teacher and head football coach for Huron, said its important for his team to support those who have always supported them.
“It’s what we do — teach the kids to respect those who came before them,” Legando said. “Its one think to tell kids to respect people, its another to show them how to do it. We take care of our own.”
“We were all amazed by the showing of support from the community,” Seibel said. “Every time something like this takes place it restores your faith in the fact that there are a lot of good people out there who still care enough help, despite the fact that so many are suffering hard times of their own.”
As for Gundlach, he said being on the receiving end felt strange.
“I’ve been to a lot of benefits and helped out on a lot of them over the years and it was just weird to see my name on the sheet.”
Even though his wife can only get out in a wheelchair, he said she’s in great spirits for recovering from such a serious accident.
As for his throat cancer, he intends to prevail.
“They don’t call me the Hammer for nothing,” he said. “Its just something else I’ll whip.”
They already have plans to get her in the wheelchair again for this Mother’s Day, May 11. Kevin Shaffer and his wife will meet them again at Kalahari’s so the couples can celebrate Mother’s Day together.
Susan Gundlach has plans for the next Mother’s Day also. She’s challenged Shaffer to a race.