Already dedicated to helping fight leukemia, the Shanks family decided to find a more personal outlet for the money raised this year.
Eight teams competed in the second annual Clifford Shanks memorial softball tournament on Saturday, July 30 at Platte Ridge Park in remembrance of the long-time Platte County resident who died from leukemia in early 2015. The event helped raise awareness about the deadly illness, while also working to benefit a special member of the community currently undergoing treatment.
Members of the Shanks family donated the money raised during the inaugural co-ed tournament in 2015 to the National Leukemia foundation. This year, they decided to help a friend, instead.
“Todd Jaros has a little son named Landon Jaros. He’s five, and I’ve known Todd since he was a little kid,” said Tim Shanks, son of Clifford Shanks and a 1998 graduate of Platte County High School. “It means a lot to know that we can help someone so close to our family right here in the community.”
Son of two Platte County High School graduates, Landon Jaros was diagnosed with T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia earlier this spring. Since then, Landon and his family have received an outpouring of support from the community.
Local community members, like Justin Tyler and other members of the Lenexa Fire Department and 2015 Platte County graduate Topher Kilkenny, shared videos of themselves offering support for the Platte City family in the initial wake of the diagnosis. A Platte County Pirates baseball game featuring a theme of #PlayForLandon allowed Landon to serve as the honorary team captain before receiving some special gifts.
Even regional sports teams have offered caring words for the family, with Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer recording a video wishing Landon well and Sporting KC designating Landon an honoree of The Victory Project during one of the club’s recent home matches.
A GoFundMe page set up by the family reached its $15,000 goal within days of being posted, but with a likely treatment period of three years or more, community members have continued to try and find ways to support the Jaros family.
“What we’ve had from the time Landon was diagnosed to even now, I feel like you can’t put that into words,” Todd Jaros said. “It’s very humbling. There’s been a lot of people that have reached out to us and have done some unbelievable things to help us out.”
The blood-borne cancer is expected to claim the lives of more than 24,000 Americans in 2016, according to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. However, recent medical tests suggest Landon is likely to recover from the disease.
Landon has entered the remission stage of his progress, during which the leukemia is no longer detectable in his body.
“Right now he doesn’t have any leukemia cells in his body, but we have a long way to go,” Todd Jaros said. “At least right now, we know that he is leukemia free. It’s a small victory.”
A kid with a spunky attitude, Landon showed up for the all-day tournament and even received the opportunity to throw out an honorary first pitch. He called the opportunity awesome.
“I threw the first pitch right to the catcher,” Landon said. “I threw a strike.”
“There was not a dry eye in the stands,” Tim Shanks said of those watching the special moment.
Traveling teams from across the Midwest area were on hand, along with a Team Shanks and the Martian Eagles, a visionary mascot Landon designed himself. The namesake of the tournament and the team representing this year’s honoree even met up in the bracket with Team Shanks advancing.
The two sets of prominent Platte County families share strong ties with one another.
“Everybody’s friends and family out here,” said Nick Jaros, Landon’s uncle. “The Jaros and the Shanks have been family friends for decades. As soon as the flyer (for the softball tournament) came out, we had a team together in probably a half hour, 45 minutes.
“No doubt, we’re going to be a part of it as long as (the Shanks) keep it going.”
The Benchwarmers — a team of mostly players from Weston, Mo. — claimed the championship title. Tournament entry fees, a silent auction, T-shirt sales and a concession stand raised money for the Jaros family, and Tim Shanks estimated the total to be about $4,000.
Although the journey to recovery is far from over for the Jaros family, Landon remains optimistic about the process.
“We’re getting better every day,” Landon said.