Fair rallies around Ratzloff after cancer diagnosis – Southernminn.com

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Aug 19 2017

OWATONNA Its the first time in six years that Matt Ratzloff hasnt been working as part of the Steele County Free Fair grounds crew, but hes not far from their thoughts or their hats.

Ratzloff, the grandson of longtime Fair Board member Gene Fisher, first joined the grounds crew at age 16 and returned every year since. Hes taking a break this year, though, for a very good reason: he was diagnosed in January with Acute Myeloid Leukemia, and spent the first half of the year undergoing chemo, transplants and innumerable doctor visits and hospital stays, as well as being one of the featured cancer patients in this springs From The Heart Run/Walk in Owatonna.

He says its a little weird this year not being out on the fairgrounds with his former coworkers.

I was on the grounds crew for about five years, and grew really close with a lot of these guys, and through grounds crew, got really close with the fair board as well, Ratzloff said. Grounds crew was kind of my summer job when I was in college.

Instead, Ratzloff is only recently returned home from Rochester, where he received a stem cell transplant in June. Normally, he says, doctors want patients to stay close at hand in case of complications for 100 days after such a procedure. In his case, he was able to return home on day 45.

Since then, its just been keeping a close watch on my body, going in for weekly checkups and just trying to recuperate from everything thats happened, he said.

His friends at the fair havent forgotten him. Each year, the grounds crew receives a t-shirt for that years fair, and this years shirt includes a cancer ribbon as the I in the word FIGHT as well as Ratzloffs initials. And his grandfather, Fisher, and fellow fair board member Scott Kozelka went even further, supplying the crew with hats embroidered with Ratzloffs nickname, Ratz.

Throughout all this, the fair has been very supportive of my journey as well, Ratzloff said. Im very fortunate to have these guys.

Fisher said the entire fair community, even extending into the vendors and carnival workers, have rallied around his grandson.

You cant ask for more out of a community than how they treated us, he said, noting hed received several donations just Friday morning from vendors to support Ratzloffs family. Its great to have that kind of community.

And even when the fair packs up on Sunday, the community will continue. Theres a benefit for Ratzloff and his family, to offset some of the considerable costs of his treatment and the months spent in Rochester, planned for next Saturday from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Owatonna VFW banquet hall. Fisher said there will be live and silent auctions, food from Godfathers Pizza, and other activities, with tickets available at the door or in advance.

Ratzloff, who finished his bachelors degree in criminal justice in December and plans to re-enroll in police academy in Rochester this fall, said hes very thankful the fair has his back.

Its a little different [seeing his friends wear his name on hats], but Im very supported in what the fair has done for me, he said. I wish one day Ill be able to repay all of these people, but its tough to.

William Morris is a reporter for the Owatonna Peoples Press. He can be reached at 444-2372; follow him on Twitter @OPPWilliam

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Fair rallies around Ratzloff after cancer diagnosis - Southernminn.com

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