By Pat Harty
IOWA CITY, Iowa - I hate asking people for money, although, my parents probably would disagree.
But I’m making this one exception on behalf of a great cause that benefits a great person - former Iowa basketball player Kenny Arnold.
I am so happy to say that Kenny has made incredible strides since he started doing physical therapy twice a week this past July.
In barely six months, the former combo guard, who played a key role for Iowa’s 1980 Final Four Team under Lute Olson, and alongside Ronnie Lester, has gone from barely being able to sit up on his own for just a few seconds to riding an exercise bike for at least 10 minutes twice a week.
Kenny also can support his own weight for longer periods, thanks to the physical therapy.
His progress has been nothing short of extraordinary, and he couldn’t have made it this far without the help of his former college teammates, especially close friend Mike “Tree” Henry, and without the help of Hawkeye fans who have reached out to Kenny with their love and support.
Kenny has a whole different outlook on life because of his unwavering spirit, his determination and his courage, but also because of the kindness of others.
Up until about two years ago, Kenny was succumbing to the physical ailments that have plagued him since he had surgery to remove a brain tumor in the mid-1980s.
His frail body was wasting away, and he barely could speak.
But his mind still was intact, and he was fortunate to have friends like Henry and Lester and former Iowa teammate Vince Brookins. They refused to let Kenny's situation get any worse and started to take action about two years ago.
Especially Henry, who is sort of like Kenny’s guardian angel, always smiling and filled with hope, optimism and love.
They both live in the Chicago area and Henry has made it his life’s mission to make Kenny’s life as comfortable and as normal as possible. Henry has helped raise money to pay for Kenny’s medical expenses, which are extensive.
Henry helped to organize a "Whiteout" in Kenny’s honor before the men’s basketball game against Illinois last season in which fans were encouraged to wear the No. 30 Kenny Arnold t-shirt. The event was a huge success and the money raised from selling the shirts was used to help pay for Kenny’s medical expenses.
Henry also helped organize a golf fundraiser on Kenny’s behalf last June in Storm Lake that raised approximately $12,000 after expenses. That money is now being used to help pay for Kenny’s medical expenses that aren’t covered by his insurance, which includes the physical therapy,, but now that money is running out.
Henry wanted to stage another Whiteout for a game this season, but it never materialized for reasons that aren’t exactly clear.
So with funds running low, Henry reached out to me last Friday to see if I could help.
We had him as our guest on the KCJJ/AllHawkeyes radio show on Monday morning and the interview is now available as a podcast and is linked below.
“When I talk to people everybody is asking (about Kenny),” Henry said Monday. “It’s just a matter of how do we get the word out to a big audience quickly? That’s why I wanted to come on your show, and again, thank you, because a lot of people obviously will hear it.”
The physical therapy has been key in helping Kenny gain his strength back, but it isn’t cheap, nor is it covered by insurance.
Henry said each therapy session cost $150 and Kenny attends about eight per month. That adds up to more than $14,000 for a year.
“It’s going out so fast with (physical therapy) twice a week,” Henry said of the money. “And we’re trying to do some other things for him. We got him a new wheelchair, you know, things like that, just basic necessities, really.”
Any amount of money helps because the thought matters as much as the money.
Kenny’s fight to survive, and the support that he has received from Hawkeye fans are two example of the human spirit at its finest.
I’d be remiss without mentioning Marty Gallagher’s impact on Kenny’s situation.
Gallagher helped to open a new world to Kenny by donating a speaking device that helps Kenny communicate with family and friends, and with Hawkeye fans.
In addition to being a lifelong Hawkeye fan, Gallagher is the co-founder of Talk to Me Technologies a company that specializes in providing communication technology. Kenny was given a speech device to help him communicate and it changed his outlook on life.
Kenny Arnold gew up in Chicago and represents one of the greatest times in the history of the Iowa men’s basketball program. Iowa hasn’t been back to the Final Four since that improbable journey 38 years ago.
Kenny also stands for so many other things, including the power of friendship.
His body has failed him, but the person behind that body is as strong and as clever as ever.
I often think of Kenny during difficult times because he always serves as a big dose of perspective.
Life hasn’t been fair to Kenny and there is no explanation for it other than some are just less fortunate than others.
But with Kenny, adversity picked an opponent who refuses to quit or back down.
Kenny is the ultimate competitor, on and off the court, but he also needs our help to battle his opponent.
It makes me feel good to help Kenny because it’s such a noble cause that is being led by some incredible people like Mike Henry.
Those interested in making a donation can do so at this link: