MANKATO — Joe Kenning was still fighting the good fight when the benefit was scheduled.
Called "Helping Hands for Joe," it was to have a dinner, silent auction and a dance, all in honor of a 27-year-old Mankato man diagnosed with stage 4 angiosarcoma.
But stage 4 is stage 4. And like many in similar circumstances, Joe, a graduate of Mankato East High School, lost that battle. He died Feb. 20, just over a week before the benefit.
So his mother, Tisha Kenning, had a choice to make. And for her, the choice was easy. The benefit is very much still on.
"I choose to use the words celebration of my son's life," she said, "because there's a lot to celebrate."
Pork dinner, silent auction, music by 10 Cent Pistol and Russell Allan — all of that is still taking place 5-8 p.m. Saturday at the Eagle Lake American Legion.
"Nothing's really going to change," she said. "It's just a celebration. A huge celebration. And that's what Joe would want. He always wanted people to have a good time."
Who was Joe Kenning?
We'll let his mom tell you.
"My amazing young man ... I don't know where to start.
"He loved the outdoors, loved to go motorcycling, loved to do those rides for benefits. He enjoyed hanging out with his buddies and going four-wheeling. He helped with River Valley Off-Roaders. At the demolition derbies in Garden City he was a flag man, and he never asked for anything in return.
"Joe was always calling me in the middle of a blizzard saying, 'Mom, do you need a ride? Need something from the store? Need a tow?' He was a worry wort. He is a worry wort. And always will be."
A year ago in December he made his first trip to the emergency room because of pain in his back. Prior to that, she said, he'd been visiting chiropractors for help. He'd get adjusted and head back out to work driving truck. But his need for medical attention grew more acute, and he needed more aggressive treatment.