His name was up in lights. A path of luminaria led the way to a young man fighting the biggest battle of his life, against colorectal cancer.
The evening of Oct. 6, a community came together to show 21-year-old Andrew Weishar they're joining him in the fight for his life. Friends, family and football teams say Andrew has always shown integrity—as a son, a brother, a football player.
"His friends call him Papa Wish, because he never swears," said his dad, Don Weishar. Weishar asked the crowd gathering in the front yard to keep praying for Andrew.
With candles flickering, Oak Forest High School varsity football players, players from Illinois Wesleyan, some from the Oak Forest Raiders and even a few from Brother Rice prayed the Our Father and sang Amazing Grace outside Andrew's window.
Weishar attended St. Damian in Oak Forest, followed by Brother Rice. He went on to Illinois Wesleyan, where he continued his football career as a freshman defensive tackle. In 2009, after experiencing severe stomach aches and drastic weight loss, Andrew underwent a colonoscopy and was diagnosed. He underwent chemotherapy, radiation and a life-altering surgery. He was considered cancer-free in January 2011; the cancer has since returned.
But Andrew's not letting it get him down. He's still fighting.
And he has plenty of people in his corner. Seniors on the varsity OFHS team delivered a gift for Andrew: the game ball from their Oct. 5 win against TF North.
From inside a first-floor bedroom, Andrew gazed out at his family, friends—and even strangers—paying honor to a young man, who has never waivered in his faith.
Oak Forest resident Joe Conway helped organize the get-together at the Weishar home.
"This kid is facing the fight of his life, yet he tells the hospice nurses, 'I'm not done fighting.'" Conway said. "His will to live and survive is an incredible strength. You've got to believe God has a plan for all of this. It already has by bringing us all together."
After a few prayers and songs, the crowd of friends, neighbors, family and football players motioned to Andrew's bedroom window and shouted, "We love you Andrew."
As more candles were lit and more light spread across the yards, Andrew's brother Danny helped send Chinese wishing laterns in the sky. Friends watched as the lanterns drifted into the sky.
"Andrew is the most inspirational person I have ever met," said Parker Carroll, of Oak Forest. "I am exteremely proud to call him my best friend."