The scholarships are open to a graduating senior at both Foothill and Amador Valley high schools who plans to attend a four-year college, has maintained a 3.0 grade point average or above during high school and has participated in a high school sport.
Selection will be based athletic commitment and leadership, financial need, school and other activities, volunteer and work experience and academic achievement. Finalists will be interviewed prior to selection of the scholarship award winner.
Applications are on line through www.naviance.com with a student I.D. or counseling offices at Foothill and Amador Valley. Because of the Friday deadline, they should be dropped off at the ValleyCare Charitable Foundation’s office.
Besides the financial assistance, the scholarships carry the honor of representing Ryan Comer, a popular Amador Valley athlete who was diagnosed in the late 1980s with a rare form of pediatric cancer and died Aug. 16, 1991 at the age of 17. Hundreds rallied in Pleasanton to help pay Ryan’s medical bills for a promising-but-experimental bone marrow treatment at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota which, at the time, the Comer family’s health coverage refused to cover.
Family friend Jim Ott, now a tenured English professor at Las Positas College, recalls that Ryan’s mother Billie researched her son’s cancer where she learned of the experimental treatment. Together, they traveled to Mayo where doctors were encouraged the new treatment could save Ryan. Led by then city leaders Councilwoman Sharrell Michelotti and school board member Pat Kernan, established a fund that eventually raised $180,000 to cover expected costs.
“I’ll never forget Ryan walking into the bank (where I worked at the time) with a couple of friends, smiling, wearing a baseball cap and looking strong despite his illness,” Ott said. “We all had high hopes, but sadly, Ryan passed away before the treatment could take place. I remember writing out the checks to pay the balance of Ryan’s medical bills, with the remainder of $150,000 establishing an annual scholarship benefiting high school students at Amador and Foothill high schools.”
I also remember Ryan, a strapping 6-foot-2, 190-pound Amador quarterback and also a school star in baseball, soccer and basketball. We chatted one night about his hopes for the future when he came to pick up one of my daughters for a Valentine’s Day dance.
Ryan was buried at St. Augustine Catholic Cemetery in Pleasanton. Shortly after, Billie Comer and Ryan’s sister Michelle Sauer worked with ValleyCare to establish the Ryan Comer Cancer Research Center. Now called the Stanford Health Care/ValleyCare health library, it has the largest collection of cancer-related education materials in Northern California. It is staffed by trained volunteers and support staff who guide patients through their treatment process. Had Billie Comer had access to this center in the pre-Internet research days in the 1980s, she believes she might have learned about Mayo’s experimental bone marrow transplant treatment soon enough to save her son.