Football affected many aspects of Tyler Genneken’s life.
He started playing as a bantam player in second grade. An avid Indianapolis Colts fan, he and his family were in south Florida when the team won Super Bowl XLI.
Just before his death from leukemia in 2009, he was named honorary captain of his Center Grove Middle School Central team.
His friends and family thought it was fitting to keep his memory alive with an annual benefit football tournament.
More than 1,000 elementary school and middle school football players, as well as parents, coaches and friends, will descend on the Center Grove area this weekend in honor of Tyler. The annual Pay It Forward Memorial Football Tournament will bring together 38 youth teams to raise awareness of pediatric cancers.
Volunteers will encourage people to donate blood and sign up for the national bone marrow registry program.
Participation has quadrupled since the tournament was founded in 2010. Organizers see that as a lasting legacy of Tyler’s selfless spirit.
“His legacy is obviously that he was strong kid, but that’s not what he was about. He was about not having other people be in the position he ended up in,” said Lane Morris, one of Tyler’s best friends. “A bone marrow transplant was out of reach for him, but he was encouraging people to go to blood drives and sign up to be the match that he was waiting for.”
The event is organized by the Tyler Genneken Foundation, a local nonprofit started by Tyler’s parents, Drew and Joyce Genneken. The goal is to register 10,000 people as donors in the National Bone Marrow Registry through the “Be the Match” program.