FIRTH – Several years ago, there was a special athlete at Firth High School. He wasn’t the best or the fastest in his two sports of football and wrestling, but he was the one with the biggest heart.
He was kind and he tried his best no matter the situation. He earned the love and respect of everyone whose lives he touched. He was that kind of special.
At the age of 16, Jared Andersen was diagnosed with cancer. It didn’t stop him. Even when he was in so much pain from the medication and treatments, Jared still showed up for the games and insisted upon playing and practicing. He was tough and he was a competitor and his teammates and coaches loved him for it.
During that time, Jared fell in love with the weight room.
It was his private sanctuary, a place he could go and just be alone with the weights, his own determination and thoughts.
He fought and battled and when it was announced that the cancer was in remission, a lot of people rejoiced with him. He had won a battle and was seen as the victor.
About that time, Jared also discovered the “Make a Wish Foundation.” It was then that he began the work to receive “his wish.”
When it was announced that he was to be awarded his wish, people found out what his desire was going to be. Jared didn’t want a trip to Disneyland or a sideline pass to an NFL football game or something along the lines of most of the wishes you hear about in the news. Jared wanted something better, something that might stand the test of time, something that others would enjoy and continue to use for years and years.
Jared wanted to use the money to refurbish and refinish the weight room at Firth High School; the room where he had spent so many hours working in solitude with his mind on other things; the place that had become his sanctuary for all those many days and hours of private workout sessions.
“I thought it was very selfless for Jared to be willing, when you have the opportunity to do just about anything you want to do, to pay it forward to the school I thought was just unbelievable of him,” FHS Principal Jeff Gee said.
Make-A-Wish partnered with the Lift Life Foundation to put together a $100,000 makeover for the Firth High School weight room. As a football player and wrestler, Andersen considered the weight room a second home and continued to work out there after being diagnosed with cancer.
After Jared and others teamed together to totally refurbish the weight room, they had to strip things down and repair the walls where they were damaged and paint and patch and create areas for the actual weights to be placed around the room.
In response, the students and faculty and staff made a sign for Jared, renaming the room the Jared Andersen Weight Room.
The sign is proudly displayed above an exit door in the weight room, a constant reminder of the act of kindness and the work that Jared was so willing to give.
After battling cancer for four years and being announced in remission on more than one occasion, Jared Andersen passed away last weekend.
He will be a living memory to those whose lives he touched with his generosity, willing smile, and encouragement for those who shared his love of the weight room at Firth High School.
“Jared was a one-of-a-kind student,” former Firth football coach Keith Drake said. “He loved to compete and he loved the workout room and weight room and now hundreds of students and fellow ‘gym rats’ will also have that area to call their own. A place where they can go and work out and try and improve their athletic ability.”
A statement posted on Facebook sums up the feelings of those around Jared and his living legacy to the school and community.
“Back in March 2016 we completed our first weight room transformation that holds a special place in our hearts.
“Partnering with @maw_idaho, we helped grant a wish for Jared Andersen. At the time Jared was a high school senior who could have wished for anything in the world, but he selflessly wished that his high school weight room be “updated.” He wanted his wish to give back to his school and community by transforming his crumbling school weight room into a state-of-the-art facility. Giving him strength and determination, Jared worked through the cancer time and time again. Our hearts were shattered as we heard the news that our dear friend Jared had lost his battle to cancer. Our hearts are with his family, friends and all of the Firth community. We love you, we miss you and your legacy will live on forever.”
Jared Andersen will always be a living example of who we are and what we can be.