Community rallies around coach who needs a heart

DU QUOIN, IL (KFVS) - In April 2011 Keith Ellis was diagnosed with a heart murmur. He thought his troubles were over, but then a leaking heart valve sent him back into surgery later that year. Now he's on the heart transplant list at Barnes Hospital in Saint Louis.

"The doctors told me I was a good candidate for a heart transplant," said Ellis of Du Quoin. "But it's one of those things we're dealing with. And we'll continue dealing with it."

One of the things the educator and coach of more than 20 years in Du Quoin schools didn't plan on dealing with are the mounting medical expenses.

So on Saturday his cousin Sue Davis and her group of angels as she calls them hosted a fundraiser at the American Legion Hall in Du Quoin.

"It's awful nice to see the people come out and show their support. Because I've never been one to ask anybody else outside my immediate family for help," said Coach Ellis. "And then once my family started asking well people really came out to support us."

Hundreds of Coach Ellis' friends, family, fans and former players all pitched in to help raise the much needed funds he's going to need to get a heart transplant.

And many of them recall how he's touched their lives over the years.

"As a young man growing up it was just nice to have somebody who genuinely cared," said Dylan Libe a former Du Quoin Indian Center on the football team. And now the Corporate Executive Chef for Sweet Baby Ray's in Chicago. "Coach Ellis was invested and interested in not only how you preformed on the field, but what you did off the field. What you did in the classroom and on Saturday nights. And he made sure you stayed out of trouble. There's no way I could repay him for the memories that I have playing football."

So Libe packed up his knifes and smoke pit and headed down to Du Quoin to help his coach, in his time of need.

"As soon as I heard they needed help I figured there was no better way then to come home and bar-b-que, which I love to do for my family, friends, Coach Ellis and everybody else."

Libe wasn't the only former player to come back home and join in the effort to help out Coach Ellis, so did Nick Hill, former quarterback for the Du Quoin Indians and Salukis at SIU.

"I've known Coach Ellis since I was in the third grade," said Hill. "Coach Ellis has been a big part of my life. He's a great guy and a great coach. When his brother called me up last month and told me they were doing this I said it was a great idea. That's what this community is all about too is helping other people out. And hopefully this will help Coach Ellis and his family out."

The outpouring of support was overwhelming for Coach Ellis.

"You don't know when you're going through things, when the kids are littler how much you're touching their lives. But then to have so many people do something like this, and the outpouring of the community it's unbelievable. It really is," Coach Ellis said.

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