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Elgin event this month draws attention to esophageal cancer

From left Meghan KaylJan Geier inaugural Smiles 4 Bob 5K last year Elgin.
Submitted photo

From left, Meghan, Kayla and Jan Geier at the inaugural Smiles 4 Bob 5K last year in Elgin. Submitted photo

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Updated: July 15, 2013 7:05PM

Before her father’s diagnosis with the esophageal cancer that would ultimately take his life, Kayla Geier had never even heard of the disease.

That’s why she and her sister Meghan created the “Smiles for Bob 5K,” a fundraiser event that aims to increase esophageal cancer awareness. The “Smiles 4 Bob 5K” race is scheduled for 8 a.m. Saturday, June 22, at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, 195 Nesler Road in Elgin.

“My dad passed away four months after his diagnosis,” said Geier, who lives in West Virginia but grew up in Elgin. “I had never even heard of esophageal cancer before. And through this race we realized a lot of people don’t know anything about it.”

The Geier family is working with the Esophageal Cancer Action Network (ECAN) to educate the public on the critical link between heartburn and cancer, and other risk factors.

Geier said her father presented a healthy lifestyle and had none of the conditions that she’s learned can be a predisposition for that type of cancer. He died at age 52 in 2011.

“Things like a history of acid reflux, smoking or obesity, he didn’t have any of that,” she said. “What we are trying to do is get the awareness out and let people know (what some of the symptoms and predispositions are).”

One of their goals is also to promote screening, she said.

Geier said that at the family’s’ request, Gov. Pat Quinn declared April as Esophageal Cancer Awareness Month. That action helped boost other awareness efforts the family coordinated to get the word out.

Bob Geier worked as a sales representative for Crystal Geiser and was well known for his happy disposition, his son Lucas Geier, 22, and Kayla, 25, both agreed.

“My dad was pretty much the dad everyone wanted to have,” she said. “He always had a smile on his face. He was seriously the nicest guy you could ever meet.”

Very active with his children’s lives, he coached at least one sport for each of them, she said. “And when he wasn’t coaching, he was always in the stands.”

Bob’s former employers check in with the family, including Bob’s widow, Jan, to see how they’re doing, Kayla said. Because their father often shared news about his kids, his friends and even coworkers were in essence a part of the family, too, she added.

“He always talked about us,” she said. “He was so proud of us. He just cared for everybody.”

Lucas, who has played sports most of his life and trained for a half-marathon, will run in the event this year and said the community spirit reflects his dad.

He didn’t attend the inaugural event last year but said photos from the event conjure up the feelings his dad would have wanted.

“All kinds of people came together in a fun-filled event, and that’s how we would want him to be remembered,” she said. “He always loved when tons of people were around.”

More information about “Smiles 4 Bob 5K” is available at

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